MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — For most people, they interview for jobs in what you hope to make your primary career after you finish college.
For Brock Faber, the interviews started months before he will even sit down in his first University of Minnesota classroom for his freshman year.
In a “normal” year, Faber would have attended a scouting combine and met with National Hockey League teams in advance of the league’s draft, which would have been held in June. With the coronavirus pandemic still affecting the world, everything is different, and the dates of the draft are still unknown.
But Faber, a 17-year-old defenseman who will play for the Minnesota Gophers next season, is drawing plenty of NHL attention.
“I’ve had a lot of Zoom calls with teams, more than 20 of them,” said Faber, a right-handed shooter who is listed at 6-foot and 194 pounds. “I didn’t know what it would be like to have the in-person meetings at the combine, but it’s been awesome, and a great process. I’m super excited for the draft.”
There is plenty of excitement about Faber as well, after he was ranked 44th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in their final projections in advance of the 2020 draft. That means seeing him picked in the second or third round is not an unrealistic expectation.
Faber will wait for that back home in Minnesota, after skating for Team USA in Michigan over the last two seasons, as a member of the National Team Development Program. Faber came home from Michigan on a two-week break in March, just as the pandemic was hitting with its full force, and has been here since then.
“The break just kept getting extended and extended, and then our season was cancelled, so things went downhill quickly,” he said. “It was pretty unfortunate.”
He will be back in Michigan in late July as one of three current or future Gophers invited to USA Hockey’s tryout camp for the IIHF World Junior Championships. With little hyperbole, his former USA Hockey coach calls Faber one of the top defensive defensemen of his age in the world.
“He absolutely eats up opposing teams’ top lines,” said Seth Appert, who is originally from Minnesota and has coached the NTDP since 2017. “Brock gets the hard assignments. He’s miserable to play against, and he loves it.”
As tough as he is on opponents, Appert found great joy in having Faber on his bench and in his locker room.
“He’s a world-class human being from a world-class family. He’s a really humble, caring, kind and extremely hard-working young man,” Appert said. “He doesn’t have a lick of elite attitude even though he’s an elite player. So he’s a real dream to coach. He’s all team-driven.”
For Faber, the initial college plans were to play for a Big Ten rival of the Gophers. At one point — back when 14-year-olds were making college decisions, under a previous set of NCAA rules — he was committed to Notre Dame, but changed course and decided to stay closer to home.
“I always wanted to be a Gopher, and I kind of lost sight of that in the first recruiting process. When I was 14 years old, I was looking for things that I wouldn’t necessarily look for now,” Faber said. “Going away from home, to the NTDP, I realized how much I love it here and how much it would mean to be a Gopher. Once I regained sight of that, it was pretty much a no-brainer.”
He will join a Gophers blue line with some opportunities. A pair of senior defensemen from last year’s team, Tyler Nanne and Ryan Zuhlsdorf, are gone and in their place, Gophers coach Bob Motzko is bringing in Faber along with defensemen Michael Koster and Carl Fish. Faber said he looks forward to joining those two, and the Gophers’ experienced defenders.
“It’s going to be a young team with a young D-core especially, but (Ben) Brinkman, (Jackson) LaCombe and (Ryan) Johnson are unbelievable players and guys that we’ll be able to look up to and be comfortable playing with those guys,” Faber said. “It’s a young D-core, but it’s a super skilled team and I’m really excited for it.”