Top of the lottery prospects: Adam Fantilli returns to form following World Juniors

Feb 1, 2023 - 6:06 PM

After what many considered a disappointing World Juniors, Adam Fantilli wasted no time getting back to his high-paced performance in the NCAA.

He had 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in four games since the last update, and added another three assists the two games prior post-WJC. It brings his total for the season to 40 points (16 G, 24 A) in 22 games with the University of Michigan, which ties him for the NCAA lead – with a player who’s three years older than him.

That 1.82 points-per-game rate is also slightly better than Jack Eichel’s 1.78 during his draft-eligible season at Boston in 2014-15 when Eichel won the Hobey Baker. In fact, the only player since the 80s to have a better points-per-game rate in their draft-eligible season in the NCAA was Paul Kariya with the Maine during the 1992-93 season, when he had a whopping 2.56 points-per-game. To put that into perspective, Fantilli wasn’t born for another 10 years when Kariya started his freshman season.

In his most recent two games, Fantilli put on quite the show with his teammate, defenseman Luke Hughes, as they led their team to a two-game series-sweep against Big Ten rival No. 6 Penn State. Hughes got most of the attention for scoring four goals in a single game as a defensemen, but Fantilli’s performance over last weekend was also electrifying with his two goals and four assists.

Fantilli’s play without the puck – which was an issue at the start of the WJC – has been as close to immaculate as a player can get since his return as well. At the WJC, Fantilli had issues with turnovers, coverage in his own zone, and rushing plays when it wasn’t needed. Fantilli was playing wing — something he’s never done before — but there was still some concern that he might not be as close to transitioning to the NHL as previously thought.

Since returning to the NCAA, Fantilli has started to show that that tournament may have been an outlier as he’s had little issues defensively lately. He still needs to work on using his size more efficiently, especially when down low, but his active stick and forechecking ability to create turnovers has been top-tier.

With a draft in which Connor Bedard is the clear No. 1, who is selected second is the more intense debate. Fantilli is likely a less mature player than Leo Carlsson at this time, but his ceiling is considered higher based on his playmaking ability and hockey IQ. Matvei Michkov is perhaps closer in ceiling on the production side, but Fantilli – despite his issues at the WJC – has a stronger defensive foundation and willingness than the Russian.

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