Hobey Baker winner Adam Fantilli is heading to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With general manager Jarmo Kekalainen getting his man at No. 3, the Blue Jackets now have an uber-talented young center coming off a tremendous college season at the University of Michigan.
Fantilli led the NCAA with 65 points and co-led the nation with 30 goals. His 35 assists were fifth in the country; overall, he led the way with 1.81 points per game.
Likely a No. 1 pick in any other draft class, Fantilli is a huge win for the Blue Jackets, let alone for him to fall to No. 3.
A puck-dominant player, Fantilli builds speed ahead of each possession, attacks through the neutral zone with crossover-heavy weaving rush patterns, and carves through defensive formations with equal parts cunning, skill, and power. Every touch is an opportunity to drive the net and Fantilli’s never seen one that he could pass up. He’s physical. His motor never stops. And his on-ice intelligence is ever-present in the defensive and neutral zones as it is the offensive third. — EliteProspects 2023 NHL Draft Guide
The Athletic's Scott Wheeler talked with several coaches and those close to Fantilli. Toronto Red Wings U16 AAA head coach Angelo Catenaro compared the top prospect to a notable NHL Hall of Famer:
I’d describe him as like an Eric Lindros but maybe even better skilled, and that’s no knock on Eric Lindros, but his skill level is off the charts and he does it at high speed, and he battles. I know the game has changed today and us coaches are getting a little older but we all still really admire a guy that has the ability to score three goals but also does so much more.
Like he would knock guys on their ass that were almost two years older than him. He just played like a tank. I can’t say enough about the kid. I think he’s going to be a phenomenal NHLer. I really do.
A mini stick Michigan and some razzle dazzle ahead of the #NHLDraft.— NHL (@NHL) June 28, 2023
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Brock Sheahan coached the Chicago Steel prior to taking over the AHL's Chicago Wolves for the 2022-23 season.
With the Steel, Sheahan oversaw talents including 2021 No. 1 overall pick, Owen Power, and first-round picks Brendan Brisson, Matthew Coronato, and Mackie Samoskevich. Upon seeing Fantilli, Sheahan knew the 18-year-old was special:
He wants to be perfect and no one’s perfect. When he gets into the one-on-one play, he’s trying to do it because he wants to win, he wants to help, he genuinely does.
At the junior level, he could just expose guys. No matter what, we always thought that he was going to be a high-level NHL player. But for him to be an elite player at the NHL level, he had to add those layers to his game. And he did, and he worked at it. It didn’t just happen.
Having won the Hobey Baker Award in his first collegiate season, Fantilli assuredly left an impression on Wolverines associate head coach, Bill Muckalt:
Whoever drafts him is getting a first overall-type player. What he has done for us this year has been incredible to watch to be honest.
He can play the game any way you want to play it. And he makes plays while doing it. Flat out. He’s a special player. He’s special.
This guy is ready to go in and contribute. He might be ahead of where Matty Beniers was after his sophomore season and (Beniers won) the Calder Trophy.
In addition to his success at Michigan, Fantilli won gold with Team Canada at the World Juniors and the World Championships.
As one chapter closes, the next one awaits.
Fantilli, of course, joins fellow Wolverines Zach Werenski, Kent Johnson, and Nick Blankenburg in Columbus. Now reality, Fantilli embraced the idea of coming to Columbus just a few weeks ago, as outlined by Blue Jackets insider Jeff Svoboda.
"I'd love to," Fantilli said. "There are multiple Michigan alumni there. It's close to home, and they have phenomenal hockey players there. I'm sure they're going to be on an amazing trajectory soon. I obviously would not mind at all. It's an amazing spot."
With the draft now behind Fantilli, the next step is inking his first professional contract and skating in his first NHL training camp with the Blue Jackets, possibly as soon as this fall.