By: Jack Olson
Team: Michigan Wolverines
Weight: 187 lbs
When it comes to hockey, Adam Fantilli is your equivalent of a 5 tool baseball player. He can shoot, stick handle, skate, think the game and play defense all exceptionally well. His extremely rare combination of power, speed, and skill could only be counted on by the fingers of one hand in the NHL. With this combination, Fantilli is currently ripping the NCAA to shreds as he leads all players in points with 60 as a freshman. Fantilli is nearly on an identical point pace as Jack Eichel was during his freshman year in 2014-2015 as he is the probable front runner for the Hobey Baker award. While Fantilli’s college season was flying by with ease, the World Junior Champions’ was somewhat of a different story. Yes, Fantilli was on a very talented Canadian roster which limited his playing time, but a guy like Connor Bedard truly separated himself from Fantilli. As for Fantilli’s game itself in the tournament, he showed his highly desirable net drives wide by lowering his shoulder with speed and showed flashes of the shiftiness ability he has, but for the most part he lacked the ability to get into the high danger areas with the puck unlike his counterparts who did quite easily. Normally, Fantilli has no issue with this at the collegiate level. Another thing Fantilli showed the entire world this tournament was the physicality he could bring. Despite the WJC showing not being up to Fantilli’s standards, he is certainly a coveted player for many reasons. One certainly being his ability to do the worm.
Like all his other traits, Fantilli is no slacker in his ability to move around the ice. For example, being one of the oldest players in the 2023 class and one of the biggest, his legs are extremely strong and powerful. This combined with his quick feet for a bigger guy allows him to maneuver the ice with ease. Fantilli at times, doesn’t even need to take full strides to roam around the ice because if he takes a couple, oftentimes he has traveled a good distance already or the puck has changed locations. His strides are very efficient and long which like mentioned above, result in him having to minimize his effort to move around the ice. Fantilli’s body posture is also excellent as well. This combined with his excellent ankle flexion also gives him an excellent foundation to become a well above average skater at the NHL level
Fantilli’s excellent ankle flexion with his knee out in front of his skate. He also moves his arms back and forward to his side to be efficient on his routes to pucks.
Fantilli when needed can also make quick turns to readjust his paths to pucks or when he has the puck making tight turns. His good change of direction and edges leads to why he is so shifty when he gets the puck and how unpredictable he can be when leading rushes up the ice. Along with this, Fantilli has above average acceleration which allows him to adjust to the play of the game with his good change of direction and edges. More importantly, it gives him the ability to escape pressure and create space for himself starting from anywhere on the ice, but especially creating speed from the defensive zone to create fast attacks off the rush. Fantilli certainly doesn’t have the most speed out on the ice, but he certainly is fast. This is due to his good ankle flexion, mature legs, and good acceleration. Fantilli loves to generate this speed through crossovers most times, but his straight line speed can be useful too. A Fantilli special oftentimes starts from the defensive zone. After he supports his teammates well as an outlet for a breakout, he uses his crossovers to gain speed then he uses his shiftiness to sieve his way through defenders and then ultimately drive wide. When he does drive wide, he lowers his shoulder and stabilizes his feet to gain maximum balance while continuing to drive the net and protect the puck from the defender.
This is one of many examples of how Fantilli’s rare combination of speed, skill and power is utilized. Fantilli certainly doesn’t have the quickest of feet, however he doesn’t need to either. His powerful strides and frame will make moving around the ice in the NHL easy, while his ability to react to plays will make up for what he lacks in his feet. Fantilli’s motor is somewhat hard to distinguish. At times, you see him coasting in a way, however this is probably due to Fantilli being in the right position to support the puck. When Fantilli does need to move, he often does so.
Shot and Goal Scoring Ability:
Not surprisingly, Fantilli can put the puck in the back of the net pretty often. He can do it in a variety of ways too. For one, he’s an excellent net front presence. He loves to plop his big body in front of the net to create a screen or attempt to tip a puck. Fantilli also loves to cause havoc in front of the net whether that be fighting for loose pucks or starting a little brouhaha.
He also knows how to take pucks off the boards and attack the middle of the ice for scoring opportunities in high danger areas. This is crucial in a prospect because it shows a very translatable trait that will allow said prospect to produce at the next level. On the other hand, if a prospect lacks in this category, it shows how they might not be able to drive offense and that they are more likely to be a perimeter player. Fantilli for the most part also knows how to provide himself as an open passing option for his teammates as well. He is pretty good at spacing himself away from defenders. He recognizes soft spots whether that be moving back into the high slot to create a passing lane or timing being the trailer on a zone entry. Something he likes to do is drift away close to the face off dot on his one timer side. He understands how to read seams and adjust his body position to give his teammates an option through that seam. Fantilli also knows when to stop and let play pass him over which opens up a passing lane to himself. Like most good goal scorers, Fantilli knows how to take space when given to him. He will wait until the last second by moving his body into the best lane to shoot possible. However, Fantilli isn’t the best at getting these shots through. Fantilli can be seen changing the angles on some of his shots, but if he wants to be more manipulative, he could work on changing his release point more frequently. Although he has shown flashes of doing this in the past, it’s about doing it more frequently that he needs to implement into his game. When shooting, Fantilli almost always has his head up looking for a corner to snipe. This often makes Fantilli’s wrist shots pretty accurate as he can follow through to his target more consistently. Other times, he is recognizing the situation and putting a smart shot on net to create offense when he doesn’t really have much other options.
Fantilli here recognizes that he has for whatever reason he has two teammates crashing the net, so Fantilli elects to shoot the puck low for pad for a rebound.
What also makes Fantilli’s wrist shot exceptional is that because of his strength at such a young age, he is able to push down with his bottom hand on his stick which will help generate flex which will produce additional power on his shot. So not only is his wrister accurate, but he puts a lot of power on it and he can really fire the puck from anywhere on the ice. Fantilli also has the strange talent of being able to fire the puck decently well while being off balance. This ability will help him at the next level as he won’t have as much time and space as he does now in the NCAA. Another tool Adam has in the tool box is his ability to one time the puck. He’s really good at dropping to one knee to make sure he gets all of his shots or by opening his front leg to create more torque on his shot to make it more powerful. Fantilli can also fire a quick snap shot if needed too. Oftentimes on one leg, Fantilli can quickly accept a pass from a teammate and within half a second, get the puck into a shooting position. He then uses a quick and short motion to catch opposing goalies off guard.
Fantilli walks into the zone on the powerplay and fires a long distance snapper into the back of the twine.
Fantilli displays his manipulative ability to create space for himself.
Fantilli fires a wrist shot off the post. Generates his power by using a downward force on his stick with his bottom hand.
Excellent sequence from Fantilli. Shows his capability of changing the angle to create a grade A scoring chance. This is something he should work on implementing more into his game and with adding this, try to limit the off balance shots in order to get shots through. He then follows the shot up by coming out of the corner with the puck and then pulls off the Michigan, but the goalie clamps down the side of the net to reject him. Later on, Fantilli attempts to play the body, showing how he loves to separate opponents from the puck by being physical. Fantilli then finishes the clip by showing how exceptional he is transitionally as he zips a puck up the ice to his teammate.
Fantilli’s ability to one time pucks in his Big Ten playoff game against Wisconsin
Fantilli’s skills don’t stop at his shot either though. Although his passing isn’t as strong as his shot or skating ability, Fantilli still has potential when it comes to being a playmaker in the NHL. With that being said, Fantilli can at times force passes. Especially down low when trying to center a puck. He thinks the game pretty quick and scans the ice for potential passing options before he even gets the puck. As a result of this, at times he is seen one timing passes to his teammates which as the play develops either the passing lanes close or he fires an off target pass. This should not be bothersome though because although he doesn’t always connect on these plays, it does show his ability to think ahead. Fantilli also understands when to attack the opponent and with whom. He prefers to attempt to get his teammates involved and attack as a unit, however when his teammates go for a change, he isn’t afraid to attack his opponents straight on in a 1 versus 3 situation. He is very good transitionally as well. For the most, Fantilli is the most efficient and effective when he skates pucks out the defensive zone and into the offensive zone, but he also does have the ability to move pucks up the ice quickly with hard and crisp passes and he then proceeds to go hard to the net to create more space for his teammates. Much like his ability to receive passes, Fantilli can quickly turn to his forehand after positioning his body to act like he was going to shoot. Oftentimes, he uses the threat of shot as a way to open up more passing lanes.
Another valuable asset Fantilli has are his hands. His size, reach and quickness combined with his ability to process the game pretty well is a scary combination when it comes to Fantilli's potential as a creative player. This combination would not only serve Adam well in open ice to make moves, but when time and space diminishes in the playoffs, Fantilli will certainly have the correct skill set to maintain that level of offensive output and creativity. Another place this clearly helps him is in the corners as he has to battle to win a puck battle, then once the puck is loose, he uses his reach and quick hands to escape the pressure from the corner and attempt to bring or transport the puck into a higher danger area. He can make quick and agile dekes which when he is coming at a defender with speed, it is extremely hard to predict what kind of move he will make. An example of his quick hands and a common move he likes to try is this:
In these clips, Fantilli is using all of his strengths to his advantage. He uses his reach to almost put the puck out there as sort of bait. He then knows the defender is going to bite on the bait with a poke check and he slides the puck around the defender's stick and in between the defender’s triangle. The defender is then compromised and Fantilli has the defender’s feet facing towards the middle of the ice. This makes it extremely difficult for the defender to readjust to the play as Fantilli will have the leverage in speed and body position. A clear theme with Fantilli, like mentioned before, is that he isn’t afraid to attack a defender straight on. Like this past move, he loves to manipulate a defender’s triangle and slide pucks under it to get through traffic and to put pucks into positions that only Fantilli can make plays from. He is very similar to his fellow future 2023 draftee Connor Bedard in this regard to their game. However, they use it in different ways, Connor uses it in more of a way to change the angle of his shot and set up his shot, but Fantilli uses it to set up his power game.
Defensively, Fantilli is slightly overrated, however he does display some traits that shows you he has the potential to be a center that dominates two ways. A main component of Fantilli’s defense is his physicality. He loves to finish checks when possible and oftentimes opponents are scared to continue with the puck knowing he is around. Also, in the defensive zone corners, Fantilli thrives as well. He uses his physicality to pin players with the puck and cut them off with an effective, but simple shoulder check. Fantilli doesn’t just like hitting along the boards; he will blow you up at mid ice as well. Another element to Fantilli’s game is how he can be relentless on forechecks and back checks when he really wants to. However, Fantilli needs to work on doing this more consistently.
In the defensive zone, Fantilli displays both positive and negative traits. He isn’t the most involved defensively, however he supports the puck extremely well and anticipates where the play is going to go next for an easy breakout. He is always in position to support his teammates as a breakout outlet and is in position to swoop in to pick up loose pucks when they eventually get free from a battle. Where Fantilli lacks is his ability to scan and look around for opponents. At times, he does a very good job of finding targets and tying them up, however most times, he doesn’t look around and is caught puck watching. Fantilli will obviously need to improve this, but his good positioning gives him a strong foundation to help improve this. Another thing that stands out about Fantilli is his stick. Because of his reach, Fantilli can intercept and break up passes quite well. This combined with his size, physicality, and speed led to him being on Michigan’s number one unit on the penalty kill because of not only his defensive impact, but he could also throw some offensive impact in there too. Fantilli clearly shows his high end offensive awareness, but defensively it’s more complicated and shaky.
When it comes to the 2023 NHL draft, the eyes are always almost on Bedard. Without him, Fantilli is getting constant media attention and being known as an upper end first overall pick. Nevertheless, coming back to reality, whichever team lands the “consolation prize” in the second overall pick should still be celebrating like they won the lotto. Fantilli displays a multitude of traits that not only will project to the NHL, but that will make him an impact in so many different ways. Any NHL coach would salivate to have this young man on their team as he can play in any situation possible. You name it: powerplay, penalty kill, five on five, playoffs, regular season, gritty game, finesse game. If you plug Fantilli in, he will get the job done. Despite all this, the common rebuttal is “but he is playing with great linemates and a great team.” While this might be true, Fantilli is clearly the one driving the results. He’s always in the thick of things whether that is stringing passing plays together or firing a puck into the back of the net. Another thing any franchise would love to have is a guy that likes to get in the middle of a fight and that’s definitely Adam Fantilli. He loves to play with emotion and will back any teammate possible. As for what an NHL team is getting in Fantilli, it’s quite simple. More than likely, he will be a first line center who can play in any situation who drives excellent offense, but the defense is a little bit more of a question. If Fantilli finds a more consistent defensive game with the one he already has, you could be looking at not a similar play style to Jonathan Toews, but a similar impact on the game and to the team as Toews. As for Fantilli’s comparable, as just mentioned, Fantilli could have a very similar impact to a team as Toews was. He could be that dominant center to lead a contending team to a championship. But stylistically, Fantilli is similar to Matthew Tkachuk. A guy known for his power game, who throws some skill in there too, and also isn’t afraid to mix things up and get a little chippy. Whichever team ends up drafting Fantilli will be set down the middle for years to come.