The Columbus Blue Jackets made a splash in the opening of free agency in a non-traditional way, by signing third overall pick Adam Fantilli to a three-year entry-level contract. They also announced that he’ll wear the #11 with the team.
Just one year removed from making two headline (controversial?) signings on this day, the Jackets make one that is not really up for debate. Fantilli was rumored to be on the fence about making the move to professional hockey – but his decision seemed to be made the moment the Jackets made this pick on Wednesday night. He’s turning pro.
Now that he’s under contract with the Jackets, his NCAA career is officially over after just one season at the University of Michigan. It was a spectacular one for Fantilli – scoring 30 goals and 65 points in just 36 games, en route to a Hobey Baker award as the best player in college hockey.
Really, he had nothing left to prove at the NCAA level. Our only question was whether or not he would want to go back and compete for a national championship. But, his desire to play in Columbus was evident right after this pick was made. The NHL’s social media channels quickly put out a video taken in May, where Adam expressed his desire to play in Columbus.
Now, his dream will come true. By signing his first professional contract, Fantilli is no longer eligible to play in the NCAA, and he will be a Blue Jacket this fall. Our dream will also come true. He immediately becomes the most talented center on the roster, and almost without a doubt will start the season in a premier role on one of the team’s top two lines.
I may be a little bit biased here, but with the lineup the Jackets have going into the season, Fantilli may have an inside track to the Calder Trophy. If he’s used on a line with Johnny Gaudreau, for example, it’s easy to see a path to a point-per-game season – Fantilli is that good.
Buckle up, Jacket fans: this team just improved immensely. Fantilli may already be the best center we’ve ever seen in Union Blue, and he hasn’t even hit the ice yet.