With the award ceremony all complete, the next task at hand is the NHL Draft. Wednesday night begins a new chapter in plenty of players’ lives. They will get to live out their dream of being a professional hockey player. The consensus is that Connor Bedard will go first overall. What is front and centre is the Anaheim Ducks draft selection.
Anaheim Ducks Draft Second Overall
No Bedard? No Problem.
On May 8, 2023, the Anaheim Ducks experienced an all too familiar with draft lottery outcomes. In a manner reminiscent of the fabled 2005 NHL Entry Draft with Sidney Crosby, the franchise fell short of the chance to draft a generational talent in Connor Bedard. The Ducks had the best odds of selecting the phenom and ended up dropping a spot to second overall. To say this was a huge blow for Ducks fans is an understatement, given Bedard’s demolition of junior hockey and what he projects to be in the NHL.
However, weeks have gone by, and there’s since been growing discourse regarding who Ducks GM Pat Verbeek will select with the second overall pick on June 28. In the eyes of many, Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson represent the two likeliest draft choices for Anaheim at No. 2. The Ducks are already rich in talent throughout their organization, both in the prospect ranks and NHL level. Fantill or Carlsson will only add to that. Whoever Verbeek takes between them will be a central part of an excellent young core in Orange County.
Let’s dive into each of their profiles.
Eighteen-year-old Adam Fantilli had a college season for the record books. He became only the third freshman ever to win the Hobey Baker Award, accompanying former NCAA standouts Paul Kariya and Jack Eichel. Fantilli recorded an amazing 65 points in just 36 games, including 30 goals. The 6’2” centre has no glaring weaknesses in his game as of the most well-rounded players of this draft class.
Fantilli has many elite and high-end tools that he uses to create maximum advantages for himself on both sides of the puck. Skating is his biggest asset, as he owns well above-average speed for someone of his stature. Fantilli appropriately uses crossovers to gain acceleration through neutral ice and has an advanced understanding of where he needs to be at all times. He’s smooth on his edges and efficiently protects the puck, showcasing synchronized quick hands and feet on zone entries. Fantilli’s offensive prowess is also on display when he drops his shoulder to work cycles down low and extends possessions.
Fantilli has great puck skills and a nonstop motor. He attacks and beats defenders one-on-one, using feints and look-offs to create quality chances. Although Fantilli has a deft playmaking touch, he is always looking to get his shot off. The power and accuracy Fantilli has on his wrist shots and one-timers make him a true dual threat.
Fantilli also exhibits an ultra-competitive drive, which is especially evident when he doesn’t have possession. The big forward gives his all on forechecking and backchecking sequences, displaying relentless pursuit of the puck. Fantilli is proactive in the defensive zone as well. He has a quick stick which he uses to pickpocket opposition and begin a transition himself. Down low, Fantilli is effective at pinning opposing players to the boards. He supports until a teammate gains possession, then makes himself available to receive an outlet pass in stride. He never shies away from contact either, playing a mean and hard-nosed game when necessary.
Fantilli’s ability to be a threat off the rush yet dominate physically along the wall presents an enticing, unique skill set that’ll make Pat Verbeek hard-pressed to pass on him come draft day.
Carlsson was already a highly-touted prospect entering the year. The season he just had in the SHL, however, propelled him to new heights. His 25 points in 44 games rank as the fifth most productive SHL season by a draft-eligible skater. The shortlist of names ahead of Carlsson includes Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Elias Lindholm, and Nicklas Backstrom, all of whom became NHL stars. For good measure, Carlsson put up nine points in 13 SHL playoff games, sitting him third all-time for playoff production among SHL draft-eligibles just behind the aforementioned Sedin twins. Carlsson also thrived on the international stage at the World Juniors and World Championships. He recorded 11 points in 15 games over both tournaments while anchoring the top line for Sweden.
Carlsson’s strengths interweave. The way he leverages his tools results in aesthetically pleasing sequences where he effortlessly manipulates opponents as a puck carrier. Carlsson’s playmaking and hockey IQ are among the best in this draft. He makes up for whatever he lacks in footspeed with quick hands to elude poke checks from defenders. Carlsson is constantly a threat in transition and cleanly enters the zone with regularity. The Swede distributes pucks to the inside as he deceptively works the perimeter, but also drives the middle himself. Carlsson carefully surveys his options and recognizes an opening a split second before firing a crisp, tape-to-tape feed to a teammate, despite tight coverage and sticks in the passing lane.
Carlsson doesn’t necessarily play a physical brand of hockey. However, he is great at protecting the puck and using his 6’3” frame to fend off opponents. Carlsson brings plenty of value defensively as well. He breaks up plays with his stick and forces attackers wide because of the tight gaps he applies. Despite lacking burning speed and an elite shot, Carlsson’s vision and two-way game will serve him well throughout his career.
Who should Anaheim select?
Any of these two players would undoubtedly help the Ducks going forward. Both Fantilli and Carlsson would be impactful additions to Anaheim’s top six next year with their respective skillsets. That being said, Adam Fantilli is the right pick for the Ducks, both in terms of upside and organizational fit. He offers more finishing ability than Carlsson, something the Ducks would welcome given their offensive woes in recent seasons. Fantilli’s ability to score in any fashion from anywhere on the ice gives him 40-goal potential. His speed coupled with his soft hands and willingness to shoot will translate immediately at the next level, especially if deployed with off-the-rush passers like Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras. Adam Fantilli has all the makings of a future superstar, and his playstyle would lend itself seamlessly to the high-octane, transition-based identity the Ducks are trying to create.
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