I give Babs the credit on Abby because when he chose to play Abby at this position, at the time, Abby was far from what we considered a top line power forward. By fan standards he was a grinder. A career 3rd/4th liner. Babs trusted him and made him a top 6er. Look back to when Babs first assigned him first line duties. RW fans almost universally rejected it regarding Abby as a bottom 6er. Now look at him. Abdelkader is honestly one of Babs best moves as a coach. Literally no one saw it coming besides him.
I think it was simply plugging abs in Homer's spot after he left. Abs was doing the same things getting in the dirty spots and Babs liked that dynamic and envisioned Abs for that role after Holmstrom left. I think last year and certainly at the start of this year abs is developing into quite the power forward on top of being a pain in the ass in front of the net.