Little Caesars Arena in Detroit can usually hold 19,515 fans for hockey. But when former USPHL 16U star David Farrance stepped onto the ice for his first NHL game with the Nashville Predators on April 8, all he saw were red covers extending over all the seats, as fans still cannot attend Red Wings games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It was a strange atmosphere in which to make your NHL debut, but Farrance still enjoyed every moment of it.
“It was everything I hoped it would be. I know it would have been cooler with some fans in the building, but under the circumstances it’s the best we could do,” said Farrance, a 21-year-old defenseman and Victor, N.Y., native. He is an alum of the former Syracuse Jr. Stars, now known as the Utica Jr. Comets. “Getting to play with and against some really good players, overall, it was a dream come true.”
Of course, getting a 7-1 win - and his first +1 rating and first 13:46 of ice time - were some nice bonuses as well.
Farrance played in the very first two seasons of the USPHL 16U Division, in 2013-14 and 2014-15. There, as the 2014-15 USPHL 16U MVP, he sharpened up the skills that would later make him a two-time First Team All-American at Boston University, and also a two-time Hobey Baker Award Finalist - and, of course, now officially an NHL player. He continues to practice and train with the Predators and will be ready when his number is called for his next NHL action.
“It’s a lifelong dream of every young hockey player, and for it to be in Nashville, I think the stars aligned and it was just meant to be that I ended up here,” said Farrance. “I live here with [former BU teammate] Dante Fabbro, and I’m on the taxi squad right now.”
The Predators, he added, were on a recent four-game point streak (3-0-1) between April 19 and April 26, just before the Florida Panthers ended that on April 27.
“I don’t think it’s development time right now, it’s time for a playoff push and a run for the Stanley Cup,” said Farrance. “Things have changed a bit [since his debut]. The team is winning and hopefully, we’ll make a deep playoff run.”
As of this writing, Nashville is close to clinching a playoffs berth, but remain in a close battle with Dallas and - to a slightly lesser extent - Chicago for the final berth in the Discover Central Division.
Nearly 10 years ago, Farrance and his family made the decision to hit the road nearly an hour east from Victor to Syracuse on an almost daily basis to push the young blueliner’s game to the next level. He looks back on those days fondly.
“Some of my favorite hockey memories came from playing in Syracuse. We made a lot of road trips for games in the Boston area, me and my Dad and [current Saint Michael’s College player] Tyler Dorval,” said Farrance. “We won a few state championships, which was also a part of it. Developing there was a big part of where I am now. From when you’re 13 and 14 to about 16-17-18, are really important years for development.”
While also playing for his home Victor High School, Farrance also was named the USPHL 16U Defenseman Of The Year for both 2013-14 and 2014-15, and he was also the division’s MVP in 2014-15. That year, he scored 25 goals and 52 points in 29 regular season games, and both remain single-season records for a USPHL 16U defenseman. With 82 points in two regular seasons, Farrance is the highest-scoring USPHL 16U defenseman in the eight-year history of that division.
While in Syracuse, Farrance played for Dave Tretowicz, a former Clarkson University captain and three-year pro whose son Adam Tretowicz (now with SUNY-Plattsburgh) was also on the Stars.
“Dave pushed me pretty hard, but he didn’t do it for himself, he did it for me,” said Farrance. “There were times I felt - at the time - he was pushing a little too hard, but looking back on it now, it makes sense.”
David’s father, also named David, grew up with Coach Tretowicz, so that led to the younger David Farrance’s introduction to the Stars program.
“That was a big part of it. They were best friends growing up, and they both knew it would be the best situation for my development,” said Farrance. “Also, we had a lot of family in Syracuse, pretty much my whole non-immediate family, and I honestly loved seeing the guys. It was good to get away from school and see some new faces every day.”
While in Syracuse, the U.S. National Team Development Program took great interest in Farrance and recruited him to the NTDP Under-17 team for 2015-16. He moved on to the U.S. NTDP Under-18 squad in 2016-17. In 2017, he helped Team USA to the World Under-18’s Gold Medal, and finished with 60 points in 116 NTDP games over his two years in Plymouth, Mich.
From there, of course, it was on to Commonwealth Ave. and four years of outstanding two-way play for the Terriers of Boston University.
“I think a big part of my [progression at BU] was my confidence level,” said Farrance. “There was a big difference between my first year and last year. When you first get there, you try to see what kind of player you will grow into for that team. You’re just stepping in and trying to play well, but you want to win games for the seniors when you’re a young guy.”
Farrance cut his teeth on the second power play and on the second and third pairs as a blueliner from 2017 clear into 2019.
“As I got older and into my junior and senior years, I took the responsibility of running the first power play and also playing well defensively is a big part of it. The confidence comes into play in that, as well,” said Farrance. “It all comes together with what kind of group you have and what kind of role you have.”
Nothing in his impressive history could have prepared him for hockey’s “COVID year,” however.
“It was a mentally exhausting year, with all the rules and not even playing a single game in our first semester,” said Farrance. “It definitely wasn’t the outcome or year we wanted, but I trained and developed with those guys and that was great.”
Farrance will continue to train and develop, though with a whole new set of teammates, as he is once again the “new guy,” the young buck looking to help his team in any way he can. The higher you go, the greater the stakes, but for the final team standing at the end of the NHL playoffs, there is no greater reward for all the work and sacrifice. From your first game onwards, it’s all worth it to chase after the Stanley Cup.