Bold Prediction #3: Both Adam Fanilli and David Jiricek get Calder Trophy consideration…
I was hesitant to wade into the Calder discussion with this article this year (I missed horribly last season), but our own Matthew Duffey came up with this prediction. I liked the idea of it so much, that we just had to include it in this article. We just couldn’t help it.
Last season, one of my own bold predictions was that Kirill Marchenko (not Kent Johnson) would get some Calder love. Unfortunately, even though Marchenko was fantastic for the club when he got his chance, even setting the franchise record with 21 goals as a rookie; he started the season in the AHL, which kept him well out of the running. We double up on our prediction here, saying that not only Fantilli – but also Jiricek – will get Calder Trophy consideration.
It’s really not that big of a stretch, all things considered. Fantilli enters the league as a relatively undisputed top-5 prospect in all of hockey. Also undisputed is the fact that he’s probably the most talented center the Blue Jackets have already – which means he may have an inside track to playing on the top line alongside Marchenko or Patrik Laine, and Johnny Gaudreau. If he gets to that level early on, it’s not entirely unthinkable that he could be a point-per-game rookie in the NHL.
If he’s able to produce at that rate, or even at the rate we made in our season preview series (30 goals, 57 points), I don’t think there’s much doubt that he’ll be in the Calder Trophy running. Winning it depends on what happens with some of the other top prospects coming into the league…including his potential teammate, defenseman David Jiricek.
Now, right away, I’ll be quick to point out that we don’t actually have Jiricek penciled into the opening night lineup. It’s going to be really hard for him to make this team, which is exactly why they went out and added depth on the back end. They don’t want to rush him. But what that also means is, if he does play in the NHL, he’s going to be a standout player right away.
If he makes the team, I can see him being a top-four defenseman right away. Paired with either Zach Werenski or Ivan Provorov, he’ll have plenty of guidance, and when coupled with his talent and the roster around him, the sky is the limit. He has a booming shot, plays hard on both sides of the puck, and may be the elite two-way defender that the Jackets have looked to add since trading away Seth Jones. If he makes the team, a Calder candidacy is certainly possible.