Adam Fantilli, the third overall draft pick from the 2023 NHL Draft, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, making him the first draft pick from this year’s class to sign an ELC. The University of Michigan product was thought to be weighing his options between taking the next step into the NHL and returning to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season. Fantilli’s reaction to being drafted by the Blue Jackets and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s confidence that Fantilli was NHL-ready indicated that the start of his NHL career was just around the corner.
Fantilli will make an immediate impact with the Blue Jackets, who have been without a bon-a-fide first-line center since the club’s inception in 2000. While he may not fill that role on opening night, Columbus hopes to develop into the role in short order. The 2023 Hobey Baker Award winner found the back of the net 30 times and registered 35 assists, good for 65 points in 35 games. Drawing comparisons to Jack Eichel in his draft year, Fantilli combines elite speed, high-end skill, and a level of maturity that Columbus has never seen in a prospect of his caliber. Hearing Fantilli speak at the NHL Draft was reassuring for Blue Jackets faithful, as he reiterated his desire to be taken by Columbus. When Fantilli walked across the draft stage to shake the hands of the Blue Jackets brass, with the names of over 100 individuals that helped him along the way on his suit vest, the Blue Jackets knew they had drafted a day-one NHLer.
Barring any unexpected delays, Fantilli will make his NHL debut in Columbus against the Philadelphia Flyers on October 12.