The first round of the 2023 NHL draft has come and gone. With the 3rd overall pick in the draft, the Blue Jackets selected Center Adam Fantilli out of the University of Michigan.
After the difficult season that the club went through with all the injuries and losing, the light at the end of the tunnel appeared to be the potential to win the NHL draft lottery and star forward Connor Bedard. However, as the 5th line is aware, the organization lost the draft lottery and slipped to the third overall pick.
The NHL lottery show was somewhat of a gut punch to the organization and fans, as the mishap by Kevin Weekes gave the appearance that the lottery was fixed in a way against the Blue Jackets. While the lottery is not fixed, that sentiment was strong.
Losing the draft lottery was just the tip of the iceberg; the Blue Jackets organization has been riddled with bad luck since its inception. There has been a plethora of injuries to players over the years, which leaves the team shorthanded during the season. The clock mishaps that have happened on multiple occasions (see the CBJ @ Kings game in 2012, Blackhawks @ CBJ game in 2019) that have led to losses.
Multiple players have refused to re-sign with the organization, citing desires to play in bigger hockey markets. Poor draft picks and players not reaching their potential. Let’s not forget the losing that this organization has suffered. If something could go wrong, it likely has with this organization.
But last night, the Blue Jackets finally caught a break.
At third overall, the Blue Jackets would still be getting a top player. However, the CBJ would not have the choice of any player not named Bedard. After Chicago took Bedard, Anaheim would have their choice of any player with the second overall pick. Jarmo Kekalainan publicly stated that the CBJ would be taking a center.
That meant that one of Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, or Will Smith (the top 3 projected centers in the draft) would be selected by the organization. Similarly, Anaheim stated they would be taking a center. So, one of those three players would be an Anaheim Duck, leaving the CBJ to select one of the remaining two. The CBJ wanted Fantilli but were at the mercy of the Ducks to see if they could get him.
Most scouts and analysts projected Adam Fantilli to second overall to Anaheim. In most drafts, Fantilli would have been the first overall pick. But with Bedard there, Fantilli would likely fall to second overall. While Carlsson and Smith are good players, many scouts had them rated below Fantilli. Projected to be a #1 center, Fantilli has the size, speed, and strength of a top notch NHL player. That combination is rare and difficult to find in center icemen.
Once Chicago selected Bedard, all eyes were on Pat Verbeek and the Anaheim Ducks. When Verbeek announced that the Ducks had selected Leo Carlsson, I think a large gasp was taken by most fans in the greater 614 area code. The surprise caught most off guard and meant that the Blue Jackets had the opportunity to draft the prized Fantilli. Then, when Jarmo announced that the Blue Jackets had selected Adam Fantilli, the 5th line went berserk with elation. There may be a few cracked windows at Pins from the loud screams of the CBJ fans at the watch party. Finally, a true #1 center is coming to this team. Finally, a young superstar will wear the union blue. Finally, this organization caught a break. Finally. Just finally.
Celebrate Blue Jackets fans. The Blue Jackets were the real winners after the 1st round of the NHL draft. The club now has its best prospect since Rick Nash in 2002. This is a franchise altering player and one that wants to be a Blue Jacket (Fantilli was quoted as saying he hoped Columbus would select him prior to the draft). This is a great day for the organization. This is a great day for you, the fans.