Unlike last year’s National Hockey League draft, in which projected first overall pick Shane fell to the Seattle Kraken at fourth overall, it’s been no secret that Connor Bedard is going to be the unanimous first overall pick in this year’s draft.
The name who will be called at second overall is as clear as Bedard’s too.
It’s going to be 18-year-old Adam Fantilli.
A Toronto, ON, native, Fantilli helped command the Michigan Wolverines to their second straight Frozen Four appearance this season. The centerman lit up the scorers sheet, leading the Wolverines and the NCAA in points, tallying 29 goals and assisting on 35. His 64 are seven clear from Hobey Baker Award Finalist Logan Cooley, who has amassed 57 so far this season.
And of all freshmen in NCAA men’s ice hockey history, Fantilli sits at eighth all-time in goals and 10th in points.
A Hobey Baker Award Finalist himself, on Friday, Fantilli won the coveted honor of being named the best NCAA men’s ice hockey player in the nation. He became the third player in collegiate hockey history to win the Hobey Baker Award as a freshman, joining the elite company of Hall of Famer Paul Kariya (1993) and Vegas Golden Knights star Jack Eichel (2016). He also became the third Wolverine to win the award in their program’s history, and the first since Kevin Porter (2008).
What makes Fantilli such a tantalizing prospect in the upcoming draft is that he possesses the skills of an NHL player at such a young age. He has the size at six-foot two inches and 187 pounds, the skating, puck handling, shot, vision, the hockey IQ, etc. He’s the perfect package for an NHL team looking for a true No. 1 centerman. Throughout his season with Michigan, Fantilli has generated highlight reel goal after highlight reel goal over the past season. Take a look at a montage below:
Adam Fantilli First Month in NCAA Highlight Reels
The most noticeable quality when watching those highlights is his stickhandling, as Fantilli’s hands are so effortless and smooth. Moreover, his silky skating is similar to that of Matt Barzal and Jason Robertson, and in an era of the NHL that is focused more and more on those qualities in players, he is certain to fit right into the new age of hockey.
He isn’t without his faults, however. He still lacks the experience at such a young age and will take a few years to join the league, and he has a knack for sitting in the sin bin – Fantilli is 13th in penalty minutes in all of the NCAA. But the fact that he is such at a young age and already boasts the attributes of a high-quality hockey player makes his NHL career that much more exciting to ponder about.
Although Fantilli will most likely be in Bedard’s shadow when looking back at who was picked first overall in the 2023 NHL draft in the future, whichever organization drafts Fantilli with the second overall pick surely has a star in its system that will alter the course of a franchise for years to come.