What a Thursday it was for Adam Fantilli.
The rookie was expected to be selected second overall in this summer’s draft, but the Anaheim Ducks stunned everyone by picking Leo Carlsson instead. The Columbus Blue Jackets were thrilled to get Fantilli, and on Thursday, he made his long-awaited NHL debut.
Fantilli has been looking sharp in the pre-season, and the organization and its fans have hope for the future, with Fantilli showing his enormous potential. But it wasn’t just an NHL debut day for Fantilli on Thursday, it was also his 19th birthday. And the Columbus Blue Jackets made sure to make it special.
The Blue Jackets have prepared a video with messages from former teammates and family that were put together and shown to Fantilli. The video was shared on social media, and at one point, Fantilli broke down crying.
“That was a tough one,” Fantilli said after watching the video. “Wow.”
Fantilli heard from his grandparents, parents, and brother in the video. But one message he got didn’t come via the video, but to him directly. And perhaps, it meant more than anything. Before putting on the gear for his first-ever NHL game, he revealed he got a special message in the morning from none other than Wayne Gretzky, who wished him good luck in his debut.
The Great One also told him to really enjoy it. When Fantilli shared the news with reporters, he couldn’t hide how thrilling it was to get a message from the greatest ever.
“That was probably the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Fantilli said per NHL.com.
The Blue Jackets lost 4-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers, but Fantilli still gave fans hope with a point in his first game. Fantilli took a shot from the left wing, and defenseman Jake Bean cleaned up the rebound to tie the game 1-1. Fantilli’s point came from his NHL shot.
“I just wanted to get it off and get it on net,” Fantilli said. “It wasn’t the best shot ever, but it ended up going off the pad and right to ‘Beaner’s’ area there, and I was really happy for him to be able to pop that one.”
Fantilli had two shots on goal and five shot attempts and was praised by his head coach, Pascal Vincent, post-game.
“Excellent, I thought it was,” Vincent said. “I think this guy is a driver. I think he’s a guy that will compete every shift. Everybody makes mistakes, but … he never makes a mistake of not working. Really impressed with him.”