Adam Fantilli owes a lot to his brother Luca for his accelerated development

HALIFAX — Adam Fantilli has been in the fast lane most of his hockey life, but he’s had a familiar co-driver for most of the way.

The speedy center leapfrogged his age group as he progressed through the highly competitive Greater Toronto Hockey League. Then, when his older brother Luca chose to go the prep school route for Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, Adam followed suit, dressing like a 15-year-old and skating alongside his brother in competition. for the first time.

“It was unreal,” Adam said Friday, on the eve of Canada’s final preliminary game against Sweden. “I mean, making that decision to leave home and go join him was tough. But the second I jumped on the ice for them was the best thing of my life, so I don’t regret it at all.

All he did at KUA was produce 18 goals and 18 assists in 26 games in a new league and a new country, against the highest level of players he had faced, while balancing academic demands from one of the best preparatory schools in New England.

« When he got here he was still going a million miles an hour, » Kimball Union coach Tim Whitehead said. « We told him, ‘You don’t always have to go a million miles an hour. « »

This stretch of the fast lane – even at 15, Adam was playing on the second line and second power play unit – not only led to a league championship for Kimball Union, but also helped defender Luca break through. with a season that earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan.

Adam said he and Luca had previously played on lacrosse teams together, but never discussed playing together on the same hockey team due to their two-year age difference. Once it happened, it felt like they were destined from then on.

“The brothers loved playing together and going to the same school and ultimately it was the start of something they were going to continue,” Whitehead said. “Both have handled each other’s success extremely well. And they were each other’s biggest champion, and that’s contagious on the team.

Adam Fantilli, right, playing for the Kimball Union Academy. (Courtesy of Kimball Union Academy)

From there, the brothers were offered a deal they couldn’t refuse, to play with Chicago Steel of the USHL, one of the premier franchises in a league that has established itself as a legitimate pipeline. for the pros.

In his first season with the Steel, Adam replicated his numbers exactly from a season earlier in prep school, scoring 18 goals and adding 18 assists for 36 points, this time in 49 games.

But it was the first year of the pandemic, of course, so his development in hockey and school could easily have taken a hit. Instead, showing that the fast lane doesn’t always have to be hockey-centric, the Fantilli family (along with dad Guiliano and mum Julia) reached out to Whitehead and KUA with the idea of ​​finishing their preparatory studies virtually.

Hockey in Chicago, virtual school in New Hampshire. It was the best of both worlds and, you might say, a silver lining in the otherwise black cloud that was COVID-19.

Another stellar season followed for Adam, racking up a total of 37-37 assists for 74 points in 54 games for the Steel.

Which brings us to this season. With credits earned, Adam once again followed big brother Luca, this time to the University of Michigan, where he jumped out the door — yes, quick start, still going a million miles an hour — and drove. already 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 16 games.

The common thread here is speed, of course, but also the comfort of having brothers tackling each new stage of their hockey adventure together. The Fantilli, who are the pride of Nobleton, a small town about 45 minutes north of downtown Toronto, have regrouped in Chicago and continue to Michigan.

Which means Luca, who is now 20 compared to Adam’s 18, has to take all the credit for his brother’s development.

« I don’t take it, » Luca said with a laugh. « He would have been where he is if he had never played with me. But he’s definitely a very special player, and I hope I contributed to that.

Sharing their hockey development has been mutually beneficial. But to hear Luca tell it, the relationship has benefited him more than his younger brother, specifically citing Adam’s offensive skills and gym habits as positive influences.

Adam didn’t believe it.

« I don’t know if that’s the case, » Adam said. “He’s pretty knowledgeable about what he’s doing; I am quite aware of what I do. I like to share a bit about what I do and what I learned. So, yeah, I like to communicate and try to pass it on to all of my teammates, because if I find something that I think everyone on the team should know, everyone on the team should have that benefit. So, I had to talk about the things I learned and maybe that’s where I got that from.

So what did the big brother show the little brother?

« A little, to be honest, » Adam said. « He’s a pretty balanced kid. Being with him has always helped me stay on the level. He’s been a really good support system to bounce ideas off of and he’s a really, really talented player. So being able to learn from him and learn this type of game from him was pretty important to me.

Familiarity for the different transitions was key, in Luca’s opinion.

« It’s kind of a comfort factor, knowing that you know someone you’ve grown up with your whole life is right there with you, going through the same thing, » Luca said. « We’re still talking, and I think that’s definitely helped him and I know that’s definitely helped me through tough times on the ice or off the ice, having him there for me. And I hope I did the same for him.

Like most brothers, the Fantilli know the importance of keeping things light, but it’s not all slapstick and finger pulling.

« He knows, and I know, when it’s time to get down to business, and we’re both very comfortable having tough conversations with each other and letting each other know what you’re up to. should do better, » Luca said. « I don’t really think I would be where I am without him. »

And as if we didn’t have enough hockey brothers involved here, the Fantillis are also close friends with the Hughes brothers — like Luke, Quinn and Jack, current and future NHL players who went through the same process.

« Just asking them questions and getting their personal experience through everything has been a huge help and just letting you know what’s to come, » Luca said.

As for where Adam might want to play in the NHL, you can’t go wrong guessing the Maple Leafs’ hometown of Toronto. Given that this pick could be a tough one for the Leafs to swing, another possibility rings true.

« He and my dad were die-hard Bruins fans, so if he ended up in Boston or something, it would be crazy for my family, » Luca said.

At world juniors, with Canada at 2-0-1-0, Adam played on the wing and not his usual center, not on the top line, getting a fraction of the minutes he is used to. But that doesn’t seem to deter the six-foot, 185-pound forward, who has three points in three games.

« One thing I’m really proud of about my game in particular is being able to play up and down a formation, » he said. « I think I can be useful and then the four lines, so I will try to be as useful as possible where I am – and try to do everything I can to help our team win a gold medal. . »

Chances are that if he puts on this medal, the first text he will receive is from big brother Luca.


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