When it comes to 2023 NHL draft prospects, Adam Fantilli is no consolation prize. Physically mature and an elite skater, Fantilli is setting the NCAA on fire as a rookie, and showing NHL draft pundits that Connor Bedard isn’t the only superstar in waiting this year.
Through six games as an NCAA rookie with the University of Michigan, Fantilli has 15 points, leading his team and the nation in scoring. It’s quite the feat even among Michigan Wolverines players considering his team features several NHL first-round picks, including forwards Frank Nazar (2022, 13th overall), Rutger McGroarty (2022, 14th overall) and Mackie Samoskevich (2021, 21st overall).
To outscore them — and a plethora of older NHL picks and NCAA veterans — shows where Fantilli’s development is at. Right now, the centerman is thinking the game faster than his opponents, and looks NHL ready months before his draft.
Okay, this is just getting silly.
4 PTS (1+3) for Adam Fantilli (2023) tonight brings him up to 15 points in just 6 NCAA games.
• Leads the nation in assists, PTS, and points-per-game
• T-2nd in GWG
• 4th in shots
• Recorded a point in every game
This is not typical. pic.twitter.com/FBJyCWCCBs
Despite his historic start, Fantilli remains focused on external results over personal achievement, and on improvement over outcome, and it shows.
“... as far as personal goals, I'm not really outcome-oriented right now. I'm just focused on the process of trying to be the best player I can be for our team and fill a certain role so that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish,” Fantilli told NHL.com.
In our initial Yahoo Sports NHL Draft rankings, Fantilli was second only to Connor Bedard — the phenom unanimously pegged as the top prospect for the 2023 draft. Bedard has been remarkable himself scoring 21 points in his first 12 games with the WHL’s Regina Pats.
According to scouts and prospect writers, however, the gap between Fantilli and Bedard isn’t as significant as some portray, and any team who selects Fantilli is still getting a superstar in the making.
“Fantilli is the only player in the 2023 draft with any hope of challenging Connor Bedard for first overall,” wrote The Hockey News draft and prospect writer Tony Ferrari. “His combination of size, speed, power, and skill hasn’t been seen since Auston Matthews’ draft year. Fantilli’s statistical output resembles Jack Eichel’s college production. In any other year, Fantilli very well could be the runaway number one but instead, he’ll legitimately challenge the players we’ve all deemed ‘generational’.”
Beyond Bedard and Fantilli, a number of probable first-rounders are showing early on that this draft class has depth. Competing against some of the top professional players outside the NHL in the SHL, Leo Carlsson is producing at a rate unseen by Swedish prospects in recent years. Through 12 games, Carlsson has 10 points with Orebro HK in Sweden’s top professional league. In comparison, last year’s ninth overall selection, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, scored nine points in 26 SHL games, while the other three Swedish first round picks (Filip Bystedt, Noah Ostlund, Liam Ohgren) combined for only four points in 51 combined games in the SHL. In his draft year, 2021 fourth overall pick Lucas Raymond needed 33 games to compile the 10 points Carlsson already has. Couple that with Carlsson’s NHL-ready 6-foot-3 frame, and he’s a prospect on the rise.
Similar to Fantilli, another NCAA prospect, Matthew Wood, is boosting his draft status scoring seven points in his first eight games with Connecticut, and forwards Will Smith, Andrew Cristall and Koehn Ziemmer are all off to torrid starts.
On the flipside, there are other prospects slated for the opening round of the draft in preseason rankings who have struggled to produce out of the gate including Zeb Forsfjäll, Kasper Halttunen, Charie Stramel and Oliver Bonk. Luckily, there are still eight months until draft day, and as quickly as hot starts can turn cold, other prospects can find their way as the season progresses and rapidly climb the ranks.
Yahoo Sports' top 10 NHL prospects, October 2022
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