It has been quite the year for Adam Fantilli. Coming out of the USHL, he joined the Michigan Wolverines just as the program said goodbye to several elite players. Names like Matty Beniers, Kent Johnson, and Owen Power had all turned pro well before their eligibility expired, leaving plenty of opportunity for incoming talents.
The 18-year-old forward took advantage of that opportunity, immediately becoming the team’s most dominant player (save, perhaps, for Luke Hughes, who had his own incredible year). Fantilli would put up 65 points in just 38 games to pace the nation in scoring, win a gold medal as a key part of Team Canada at the World Juniors, and double up to win the Hobey Baker and Tim Taylor awards as college hockey’s best player and rookie.
He’s widely expected to go second overall in this year’s draft to the Anaheim Ducks, a team building quite the core of young forwards.
According to Fantilli, the Ducks might still have to wait a little while to get their hands on him. At the scouting combine in Buffalo, he told reporters, including Adam Kimelman of NHL.com, that a return to Michigan for his sophomore season is not out of the question.
I feel like I really can’t really go wrong. Michigan is an amazing place, and obviously, the NHL is where you want to be, it’s where you grew up wanting to play your entire life. So, it’s a big decision. There’s pros to both sides.
In all likelihood, the 6’2″ center will sign his entry-level deal and leave the NCAA after just one season. But, as he says, there are pros to staying, too. While he doesn’t have much to prove at that level, waiting another year would let him further mature physically and continue to hone his defensive game.
There were times at the recent World Championships when he seemed outmatched against professional competition. He scored just one goal and three points in ten games at the international competition. Should he go back to college for another year—as many top picks do—he would also get another chance to play at the World Juniors, this time as the star attraction.
There’s little doubt that Fantilli will make it to the NHL at some point, but the Ducks don’t need to rush him. The group is probably not yet ready to contend, meaning they could delay his entry-level contract a year. Even if they signed him at the end of the season, as long as Fantilli doesn’t play in more than ten NHL games, his contract would slide forward.