The Nos. 2 and 3 overall picks of the 2023 NHL Draft are expected to share the ice Tuesday when Leo Carlsson and the Anaheim Ducks visit Adam Fantilli and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Carlsson, 18, has recorded one goal in two games since Anaheim selected him with the second overall pick in late June. Last season’s Swedish Junior Hockey Player of the Year missed the Ducks’ first two games with a lower-body injury sustained at practice on Oct. 6, and then was a healthy scratch Sunday as part of his workload management.
Fantilli, chosen by Columbus with the third pick out of Michigan, scored his first NHL goal in his last game. Fantilli, 19, tallied late in the third period and Jack Roslovic scored 3:07 into overtime to lift the Blue Jackets to a 5-4 victory versus the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
“It’s every kid’s dream to get their first NHL goal,” said Fantilli, who received a generous helping of a shaving-cream pie to his face from his teammates after the game.
“But to be honest, I was really happy with the way I was playing away from the puck as well to that point. I was just working hard, knew it would happen at some point.”
While pleased with his offensive production, Fantilli lamented a defensive lapse on the part of his line that led to the Wild forging a 4-4 tie with 2:59 remaining in the third period.
“That’s quite the mature person that could say that, especially at that age,” Columbus coach Pascal Vincent said. “We reinforce that quite a bit. Our game with and without the puck is as important, one way or the other. We need to be all-in to have some success. This is a hard league to win hockey games, and Adam is all-in.
“He wants to learn. He’s a mature young man. And he can play. So it’s really good to see him playing that way with the puck and without the puck.”
The Blue Jackets have won two straight and three out of four heading into Tuesday’s tilt against Anaheim.
Carlsson scored a goal on his first career shot and registered a plus-2 rating in his NHL debut, however the Ducks began their current three-game losing skid with a 3-2 setback to the Dallas Stars on Thursday. He unleashed four shots two nights later in a 2-1 defeat against the Arizona Coyotes before sitting out Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.
The Ducks have said that they plan to monitor Carlsson’s workload as he gets acclimated to the NHL.
As it stands, Anaheim has shown signs of progress during its rebuilding stage, although that narrative is getting old in the eyes of coach Greg Cronin.
“We played well. But you can’t keep saying that. You’re saying that every game,” said Cronin, who has seen his team register just one win and score a combined five goals during its four losses.
“We could have beat Dallas, we could have beat (Boston). Score goals. You can’t win games scoring one goal a game.”