After landing what I would call the perfect player with the third overall pick in the draft, the Blue Jackets now have their apparent #1 center. Adam Fantilli is not like any prospect the Jackets have ever had before, so while we’re smart to temper expectations with a teenager; I think we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about how he might be able to produce this season.
We’ve been quick to point out that Fantilli is probably the best prospect the Blue Jackets have ever had. I’m not even sure it’s really debatable. Rick Nash was the previous holder of that title, and while he went on to write the Blue Jacket record book, let’s be honest: amongst first overall selections since the year 2000, he’s roughly middle of the pack.
Adam Fantilli likely goes first overall in most of the drafts that have taken place since the Blue Jackets’ inception. Not all of them (2004, 2005, 2015 for sure, maybe 2013 and 2016) – but, a good majority anyway. He’s a terrific talent with the requisite size, skill, and competitiveness that you want from a future #1 center.
With that said, he will have to make a big adjustment to professional hockey. And, for a team that is desperately thin down the middle, he’s probably the best candidate to center one of the top two lines, so we’re hoping he can make that adjustment fairly quickly. Fortunately, this team isn’t in a dire talent situation like the one he might have faced elsewhere.
He’ll have some great quality wingers in the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine, Kent Johnson, Kirill Marchenko, and maybe even Boone Jenner (depending on how the rest of the lineup shakes out). The team also has a revamped defense, with some good quality veterans who should be able to get the puck out of their own end.
He will also be able to benefit from one of the best “X and O” coaches to ever stand behind an NHL bench in Mike Babcock. When you put it all together; his natural talent, the quality of linemates he should have, and a solid team system, should set him up for early success.
It’s not entirely fair to say that he’ll be a point-per-game player out of the gate … but, I also don’t think that’s above his reach, especially if he gets to play alongside Gaudreau. Interestingly enough, there is one player in recent history that we can compare him to, almost side-by-side, if we want to give him some benchmarks this season…