It’s not exactly a new phenomenon anymore, but being short and skinny, by professional athlete standards, isn’t the disadvantage it once was perceived as in hockey. You’ll hear a lot of prospect analysts talk about that between now and June 22nd. But one thing I have noticed is how many of these undersized players who establish themselves as top prospects are American. Clayton Keller and Alex DeBrincat are two of the more recent examples. Both were taken fairly early in the 2016 NHL Draft (in comparison to, say, Johnny Gaudreau, who slipped to the fourth round in 2011 because of size concerns), and both have been standout rookies this year, and look to be regular NHLers for a long time. Kailer Yamamoto, a first-rounder in 2017, looks to make the leap next season.
The next in the long line of sub-6-foot scoring forwards hailing from south of the border is Joel Farabee, a 5’11” left winger who gets overshadowed at times by fellow American draft prospects Brady Tkachuk and Oliver Wahlstrom, but has done nothing but put up points for as long as he has played high-level hockey.
Farabee grew up in Cicero, New York, just outside of Syracuse. He is the youngest of three hockey-playing brothers––both of his older brothers currently play Division III. His talent was evident pretty early on. At the 2013 Quebec Pee-Wee Tournament, the then-5’1” Farabee made headlines with a goal he scored where he skated up the left side, walked a defender, and scored high-blocker.
He moved to Connecticut at 14 to play for the elite Selects Academy program, and posted 33 points in 28 games his first year, playing up an age group. In December of 2014, Farabee committed to play at the University of New Hampshire, becoming the youngest recruit ever to commit to the school. But, as happens to many players who commit that young, he changed his mind, and after the assistant coach who recruited him to UNH left, Farabee elected to commit to the more prestigious program at Boston University.
Farabee scored 17 goals and 49 points in his second year at Selects Academy, but was left off Team USA’s Youth Olympic roster––something one of the people in charge of selecting the team would later admit to me was a mistake. That mistake was rectified when it was time to pick the NTDP roster. Farabee was an easy choice, and received top-line minutes right from the get-go.
Despite the 2000-born group initially struggling to acclimate to the faster pace of junior hockey, Farabee had an easier transition than most. He paced the U17 team in scoring, including a standout performance at the Under-17 Challenge capped by a highlight-reel overtime goal against the Czech Republic. Toward the end of the season, he got called up to the U18 squad for the World Under-18 Championship, and scored two goals in the US’s 4-2 win over Finland in the gold medal game.
In this, his second campaign with the NTDP, Farabee has been overshadowed by his linemates Oliver Wahlstrom and Jack Hughes, but has maintained his high-first-round-pick status with 27 goals and 64 points in 53 games as of April 2nd. He has held the captaincy at various points during the season and with the World U18s coming up later this month, will be expected to contribute if the US is to repeat and win their eleventh gold medal at the tournament.
My view of Farabee is that he should be a lottery pick, just outside the top 10. He has great linemates to be sure, but has proven to be an immense talent in his own right and should be talked about more by draft analysts than he currently is. He should be able to step into a significant role right away for former Avalanche assistant David Quinn’s BU team, which has been a factory for top-end talent under his tenure. I’d expect Farabee to play two seasons with the Terriers, and participate in two World Juniors with Team USA. What happens after turning pro is entirely up to him, but just know this writer has very high expectations.
What the Scouts Say
“Super slick playmaker from the wing. He has excellent vision and playmaking abilities. Somewhat slight of frame, but is slippery enough to avoid big contact.” - Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet
”Farabee is an cerebral three-zone playmaker who consistently adheres to textbook fundamentals in addition to being one of the most lethal scorers in his draft class. He can tailor his style to fit any game — wide open, slogging matches, physical…it simply does not matter. Farabee is a top-line winger for the NTDP and he plays that role in every situation no matter the score or time on the clock.” - Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst.
Farabee is a very high- energy, big–effort player with skill…he never stops moving his feet or finding ways to try to be a factor on the ice…has jersey-flapping speed…his ability to change pace is impressive and allows him to stay elusive…possesses good puck control, and has a dogged willingness to take the puck to the net…has creative hands and can pull a skilled one-on-one move to gain space…moves the puck around the ice extremely well, connecting with good strong passes that lead his linemates effectively…not scared to shoot the puck when presented the opportunity…has a quick release but lacks velocity on his shot at this stage…keeps moving in the offensive zone, and that creates a lot of space and time for he and his teammates, and in doing so he generates a lot of offensive opportunities…he excels in all zones, providing his team with a tireless work ethic, strong defensive play, and some offensive flair…has the low-end potential of a strong third liner with speed who can help a penalty kill, or a high-end upside as a top-six scorer who can contribute on special teams.” - Future Considerations