BUFFALO, N.Y. — In any other draft year, Adam Fantilli is likely the consensus No. 1 overall pick. He is the total package and everything you want in a hockey player.
I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him during Friday's media availability at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo when he started fielding questions about Connor Bedard, who has stolen the attention and headlines — and understandably so. Fantilli is a pretty good player, too, and he handled questions about Bedard like a pro, genuinely pumping his tires every time he was asked about him.
It helps that Bedard and Fantilli are friends off the ice and are rooting for each other to succeed. The two of them won a gold medal together with Team Canada at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, where Bedard set a Canadian record for most points (23) in a single tournament.
"He's a phenomenal hockey player and a great kid," said Fantilli, who is expected to be taken No. 2 overall by Anaheim. "We're pretty good buddies. To watch him have success like that was awesome. He was a huge part of why we won that gold medal."
Bedard and Fantilli are special players in different ways. Fantilli has the size, the skating, the scoring ability, and can play in all situations while Bedard is a gamebreaker who will be a big-time point producer and goal scoring in the NHL.
Fantilli doesn't seem too bothered by the fact Bedard is dominating the spotlight. If anything, he'll use it as motivation and prove to people that he'll be a solid NHL player, too, but not in a bitter-type way.
Fantilli believes Bedard "deserves everything he's getting," and he has no doubt the projected No. 1 overall pick will live up to the hype at the next level.
"There's a lot of eyes on him in terms of everything he's going to be expected to do with the amount of success he's had in juniors and on an international level," Fantilli said. "In my eyes, he's going to be able to exceed those, because he's such an amazing guy and amazing player."