Photo Credit: Michigan Photography
Adam Fantilli is the second ranked player on Smaht’s preliminary rankings and is currently the third leading scorer in the NCAA both in total points and in points per game.
Fantilli took the road less traveled as the Toronto native ventured south of the border to play for the Chicago Steel the previous two seasons so that he could play college hockey for the University of Michigan in the United States during his draft eligible season.
Last year Fantilli was in the top eight in the USHL scoring on a per game basis and was second on the Steel with 71 points which trailed only Jackson Blake on the Steel by three points despite playing seven less games.
Coming into the year Fantilli was widely regarded as a possible top 5 pick, but by quantitative and qualitative analysis he continues to perform closer to the first overall ranked player than the other players in the top five. The 6’2 pivot has had a torrid start to his collegiate career and will hopefully continue to impress at the World Juniors where he’ll play a significant role for Team Canada.
D.O.B – October 12, 2004
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –187 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Fantilli’s Style of Play
Adam Fantilli has every tool that an NHL team would dream of having with their top overall selection. He’s got the physical tools of size, strength, speed and lateral mobility. He has amazing puck skill with the ability to do it at full speed and in small area situations. He can protect the puck, put his shoulder down and power through a defender, or put it under a defender’s stick and put them through the spin cycle.
His vision is high-end with the ability to find lateral teammates and move defenders out of passing lanes to open up new scoring opportunities. He has a heavy wrist shot and a dynamite one-timer. The power play could run through Fantilli or he could be the trigger man.
My favorite aspect of Fantilli’s offensive game this year has been his puck skill and play creation. His ability to press up into a defender and then put the puck under the defenseman’s stick here and then the laser beam of a shot for a low danger goal is one of my favorite highlights from his season.
I believe one of his best traits as a hockey player is that Fantilli almost always instantly gets his head up to scan to the dangerous areas of the ice after he gets by a defender to thread a medium/high danger pass. Rarely does he make a move past a defender where his first thought isn’t to take advantage of the odd-man situation and put pressure on the defenders in front of him.
Fantilli’s puck skill isn’t just used in one-on-one situations. He’ll often problem solve complex situations by utilizing his puck skill to split defenders or to situate himself in a position where he can get by a defender and draw a supporting defender off a teammate which is where Fantilli goes almost immediately after seeing the situation develop.
The clip below you see Fantilli split two defenders and then go by a third defender by putting the puck inside and then under the stick outside before Gretzky turning out of the pressure to scan and hit an open teammate. The level of confidence to attempt a play like this is commendable, but to pull it off seamlessly is what makes Fantilli one of this draft’s truly special talents.
When Fantilli is at the top of his game he looks like an NHL player going to play in the beer league for a night. When he has the puck on his stick he makes it look like there isn’t a player in the NCAA who is going to be able to stop him and he does what he pleases while leaving defenders in the dust or made into highlight reel clips.
He invites pressure onto him before making high-end, precise passes. Whether it’s a no-look back pass below the goal line, or drawing a defender on him on the PP to open up a passing lane cross ice, Fantilli will often welcome defensive pressure to free up the spaces around him so he can hit open teammates moving towards the net or for an exit/entry.
There really isn’t much to pick apart in his offensive game this year. There are times he can take a backseat to Mackie Samoskevich or Seamus Casey/Luke Hughes when they activate. The only real issue I see is nit-picky but he can have a little bit of an inversion complex on offensive zone entries. What I mean by this is that when he’s carrying the puck in the defensive zone or through the defensive blue line a lot of his best options to pass are in front of him and if he doesn’t see them then he knows he can reset and get better options out in front of him. When any player enters an offensive zone entry the play to be made will be coming laterally or from behind the player with the puck and out of their direct line of vision. There are multiple ways to counteract this issue, but the most conservative way is to dump the puck deep. When Fantilli can’t pre-scan before hitting the entry he will sometimes play too conservatively and dump the puck when he has great secondary options if he were to slow his pace down on the entry or open up upon the entry.
Overall, he’s a dynamic offensive talent. When Fantilli has the puck on his stick he is one of the most fun players to watch in this draft class. He moves well off the puck to put himself in supportive positions and in positions to score.
Adam Fantilli is a player that I’ve had to blend the last two years together to really get a full read on his defensive game. This past year at Michigan, Fantilli is taking faceoff draws but then goes and plays a traditional winger’s role in the defensive zone and forecheck. He’s playing the points in the defensive zone, but his forechecking responsibility does vary but oftentimes he’s the F1/F2 role.
Last year and coming into this year I thought Fantilli was one of the best two-way players coming into the 2023 draft. It wasn’t uncommon for him to have shifts like the one below where he utterly dominated a team all 200ft in the USHL.
This year I still see the same aggressive and hard-on-pucks style of defense from Fantilli. However I do think there have been a few instances where he’s been beat off the boards against smaller or quicker players as well a few times he’s flown the zone during inopportune times. While Mackie Samoskevich (#11) makes the most egregious error during this play: Fantilli gets beat on the wall to start the play (#19) by a very slick move by Ryan Healey. He then peels off very wide and gets above the puck and doesn’t move back to recover to the dangerous area cross ice path that Mackie abandons.
Overall, he has a very active stick and is very good at separating players from the puck on the forecheck and along the boards. I wish I got to see him play a more traditional center role this year to better evaluate and project his defensive role for the NHL, but the tools are all there for a player who should be able to play down the middle in the NHL in a defensive capacity.
What the Data Says
Adam Fantilli has had a very efficient microstat dataset across my three game tracking of him so far. He’s involved in 37% of Michigan’s successful offensive zone transitions. While this eludes the usual 40% marker I’m looking for; I think it’s important to note that Fantilli is playing with Mackie Samoskevich and either Seamus Case or Luke Hughes on every shift. With an aggressive activation strategy utilized by Michigan’s defenseman, Fantilli finds himself competing for transition opportunities. He’s taken 70% of his shot attempts from dangerous areas of the ice, and 17% of his passes are to the dangerous areas of the ice as well. He’s moderately involved in defensive zone transitions and very involved in creating forechecking turnover opportunities. His team has a 64% Corsi while he’s on the ice.
The only concerning part for me is that two of the three games Fantilli played in he only had two shot attempts 5v5. I’d like to see him take another step and get himself to shooting areas instead of looking to facilitate play around the zone.
I think Adam Fantilli has cemented himself as the #2 pick in the 2023 draft barring an extreme extenuating circumstance. I think there’s an argument to be made that Fantilli could be the number 1 pick in the 2023 draft for some NHL teams. I think his 200ft game and his ability to play through the middle with his size and speed could come into play for an NHL team trying to decide who to pick at #1.
I think as a player Fantilli projects as a top 6 center and most likely a top line center for a team that’s picking that high in the draft. I believe there’s still room for him to grow in terms of creating more opportunities for himself to score, and his playmaking/creating ability is already high-end. I think his defensive game will need some refinement but his motor and his time with the Steel has shown a player able to play a 200ft game.
December 26, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Austin Garrett. If you would like to follow Austin on Twitter, his handle is @BMaster716.
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