The 2023 NHL Draft is expected to feature a young Toronto Maple Leafs fan and hockey phenom. He’s currently charting his own unique hockey path.
The road to playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs isn’t linear and it certainly isn’t easy. It’s an expensive journey that costs families, not just the individual player, a great deal of time and money.
When a young minor hockey player is identified to be extremely talented, they need to begin charting their path to achieve their goals and dreams. At age 15, they need to know their plans for continuing with hockey.
For one highly touted and possible first overall 2023 NHL draftee, he’s chosen to make his own route.
Because the NCAA considers the CHL to be professional hockey, the moment a player is involved in any major junior gameplay, they lose their eligibility to play in a United States post-secondary institution.
For what some have identified as a future big-league superstar in the sport, a decision for his future looms very soon. This is especially true with the OHL Priority Draft just around the corner, expected to be held on Saturday, April 4.
Born in Toronto, Adamo (Adam) Fantilli may be the next big hockey superstar and he’s already left Canada to pursue his dreams.
Instead of continuing on a path perfect for Major Junior, Fantilli left the Big Smoke and went south of the border to Meriden, New Hampshire. He and his older brother Luca, a defenseman, enrolled in a private boarding school there named Kimball Union Academy (KUA).
There were certainly many attractions for the Fantillis to the school, not the least of which is the opportunity for the brothers to play together within an elite hockey program before Luca heads to join the University of Michigan.
The Players also get to learn at the rink from a Division I National Coach of the Year, Tim Whitehead.
Before joining KUA Whitehead was the head coach at the University of Maine for 13 years. Now’s he’s a part of a program that’s won the last three New England Elite Division Prep Championships.
In an interview Whitehead conducted with me online, he explained what makes Fantilli so special. “Adam is one of those rare talents who brings exceptional speed, skill, scoring, hockey sense, and physical power every time he steps on the ice. Adam can execute moves at full speed in a game that most players his age can’t pull off when practicing on their own.”
Last season, Fantilli played a year up for the AAA Toronto Red Wings in the GTHL. This is a rarity in the league but also happened to be the course for Toronto Maple Leafs star and former first overall draft pick, John Tavares.
Fantilli’s talent and drive helped push his team all the way to the OHL Cup Finals, where they lost in overtime to a stacked Don Mills Flyers team. For context’s sake, at the biggest minor hockey tournament in the province, Fantilli almost defeated the team that featured three of the top four picks in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.
Shane Wright went first overall (Kingston Frontenacs), Brennan Othmann second overall (Flint Firebirds), and Brandt Clarke (Barrie Colts).
The Flyers also had Liam Arnsby come off the board at ninth overall (North Bay Battalion), while Fantilli’s only teammate to be drafted in the first round was Francesco Pinelli at 13th overall (Kitchener Rangers). Fantilli recorded five goals and two assists in the six OHL Cup games he played.
“Great things are on the horizon for this talented young man,” said coach Whitehead. “Adam comes from a wonderful family and I’m confident they’ll be watching him play in the NHL one day.
Adam knows it’s a long road to the top with lots of potholes along the way but his work ethic, his athleticism, and his focused passion for the game are truly exceptional.”
Fantilli has spent the season trying to refine certain aspects of his game at KUA. His goals for the season were to try and slow the game down for himself at just the right times as well as improve defensively.
The young forward is in good hands in New Hampshire. He should be prepared for whatever the next level brings. As someone who’s very passionate about the sport and working hard on the ice and in the gym, his future looks bright.
Whether Fantilli’s development remains a path similar to that of Tavares and he’s selected at the top of the NHL Entry Draft remains to be seen. There are high hopes for this electric player who may even one day play for the Toronto Maple Leafs.