That was part of the league’s Stanley Cup Final tour for top draft prospects in early June. Much has happened since, including the Anaheim Ducks pulling a draft surprise by taking Carlsson over Fantilli with the second overall pick. Both are NHL rookies, each has already scored a goal – including Fantilli’s in a 5-4 overtime win Saturday in Minnesota – and many hoped they’d face each other Tuesday at Nationwide Arena for the first time as NHLers.
Instead, they’ll settle for exchanging pleasantries in the hallway thanks Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek's plan to ease Carlsson into an 82-game NHL schedule. Carlsson, who missed time with an ankle injury in training camp, sat Sunday in Boston, as well.
Fantilli’s hope after the Jackets' practice Monday was to reconnect on the ice.
“We’re excited,” Fantilli said. “I’ve dreamed about playing in this league forever and we’re all here, and we get to play against each other. That’s the best part about it. It’s going to be extremely cool and I’m really excited to get back on the ice with him.”
Carlsson and Fantilli faced each other during the world junior championships in January, but their lines didn’t match up. Carlsson was on Sweden’s top line and Fantilli skated on the fourth line for Canada, which won the gold medal. Both then played in the men’s world championships, but Sweden was eliminated before a rematch could happen in the medal rounds.
A couple week later, Carlsson and Fantilli hung out in Las Vegas at the NHL's invite with fellow draft prospects Connor Bedard (first overall, Chicago Blackhawks) and Will Smith (fourth overall, San Jose Sharks).
“We were free to do whatever we wanted, other than meetings we had to go to,” Fantilli said. “So, we went to Topgolf. He’d also never had Raising Canes at the time, so we found a ‘Canes’ and got some fast food in him. We had a good time.”
This would've been a different type of fun in Columbus. Neither has pointed to what happened at the draft as an added motivation, but there's extra incentive for both if they ever need it.
Carlsson’s had the term “surprise pick” attached to his name since the Ducks handed him a jersey in Nashville and Fantilli needed to "fall" a spot for the Blue Jackets to take him. A pre-draft recording of Fantilli saying he’d love to play in Columbus surfaced after the selections were made, but most draft analysts assumed he was bound for Anaheim.
If that upset Fantilli at all, he's hidden it well.
“I just remembered that video I’d made back in April saying I wanted to come here (to Columbus), so I was pretty excited to come here and meet the whole organization,” Fantilli said. “I was ‘10 out of 10’ ecstatic with how the draft went for me, so I’m not looking back on it with a damper that I didn’t go two or anything like that. I was really happy with where I ended up.”
He’d also be happy with a win over the Ducks, but not for the obvious reason. Fantilli isn't carrying a grudge and this is just the start for both he and Carlsson. It's far too early for any meaningful comparisons or a friendly rivalry to emerge.
“It’s an 82-game season and we’re five games in,” Fantilli said. “I’m here to focus on myself. For me, at the end of the season, if I become a better, more well-rounded pro, that’s a plus for me on the season. I’m not focusing on anything 82 games down the road.”
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Anaheim development plan makes Carlsson duck Blue Jackets' Fantilli