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Adam Fantilli Injured: Updates, FAQs, and Season/Calder Projection

Photo Courtesy of ESPN

Adam Fantilli was put on IR (injured reserve) and is expected to miss eight weeks after suffering a calf laceration during a game against the Seattle Kraken on January 28th. He had delivered a hit against the boards to Kraken forward Jared McCann, whose skate connected with Fantilli's calf after the collision. Thankfully, Fantilli managed to skate to the Blue Jackets’ bench on one leg before heading back to the dressing room.

What This Means for the Blue Jackets

Fantilli’s injury means the Blue Jackets are losing one of their key top-six forwards and one of their most consistent players. The 19-year-old standout, who previously excelled at the University of Michigan and claimed the Hobey Baker Award in 2023, has 12 goals and 27 points in 49 games with Columbus. He’s third on the team in points and is fourth in both goals and assists.

Photo Courtesy of SportsNet

Fans Left Wondering

When Fantilli left the ice on one leg, hopping down the tunnel, Blue Jackets fans in attendance and hockey fans everywhere were left puzzled by the events of the January 28 game. Despite the seemingly harmless nature of the play, the severity of Fantilli’s injury remained a mystery. 

Later in the game, the Blue Jackets PR put out a post on X that Fantilli had suffered a “lower-body” injury and wouldn’t return. Based on replays, it was assumed that a skate blade had clipped him, but the exact cause remained uncertain. Some speculated it was his Achilles tendon based solely on his reaction to the injury. 

So many more questions were being asked. “If it was a skate blade, how deep had it cut?” “Was it going to bother him long-term, or cause worse issues down the road?” All these were valid, needing-to-be-answered questions, yet the lack of available information left them unanswered. 

Breaking the News

The morning after the game, The Hockey News Columbus says that the play-by-play announcer, Bob McElligott, from CBJ Radio said on X that he believed Fantilli got cut by a skate blade as he saw him in a walking boot. 

On January 31st, the Columbus Blue Jackets officially announced that Adam Fantilli would, indeed, miss 8 weeks due to a calf laceration. This news dealt a significant blow to Fantilli and the Blue Jackets alike. Despite the official statement, both media personnel and fans were left with unanswered questions regarding the extent of his injury and the length of his absence. The fact that Fantilli was wearing protective socks under his normal socks, as confirmed by the Blue Jackets to THN Columbus, only raised additional questions about the injury. 

Cut-Resistant Equipment: Mandatory in the NHL?

Unfortunately, according to the NHL, cut-resistant gear is not currently mandated in the NHL, although it is strongly encouraged.

Following the tragic death of Adam Johnson, USA Hockey has made neck protection mandatory for their players. This will likely lead the way for more professional leagues, including the NHL, making this cut-resistant gear mandatory. 

Many active players in the NHL also are fighting for more protective gear, including TJ Oshie. Oshie is the founder of Warroad, the gear company focused “on player performance, safety, and recovery.” Warroad began in 2018, when Oshie started lending insider knowledge about what NHL players truly need to play at the highest level, and has become one of the leading brands for protective gear, harboring countless well-known players as brand ambassadors.

It is important to note that, though many in the NHL are in favor of making cut-resistant equipment necessary in the NHL, any attempt to make it mandatory would require the approval of the NHL Players' Association.

Photo Courtesy of the Boston Globe (STEPH CHAMBERS/GETTY)

Answers From the Experts

THN Columbus had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Gregory Rubin, DO. Dr. Rubin is a Primary Sports Medicine Physician and also a consultant with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. He is the team physician for Florida Gulf Coast University as well. During the interview, THN Columbus asked him about injuries similar to Fantilli’s that he’s encountered and discussed potential plans for moving forward.

THN Columbus asked, “How often do skate lacerations happen in the NHL?” 

Dr. Rubin responded saying, “Access to NHL data to review laceration frequency is not available. However, in a retrospective study looking at speed skater injuries, they found that of 108 total injuries, the most common injury seen was lower extremity lacerations. These accounted for 11% of all injuries seen. Another study in 2006 looked at 412 injuries in synchronized skaters and found that 33 of those injuries were lower extremity lacerations.

THN Columbus asked, “Are calf lacerations harder to deal with and treat than cuts on other parts of the body?” 

Dr. Rubin responded saying, “There are different grades of lacerations. A superficial laceration only requiring sutures to close the skin will typically have sutures removed in 10-14 days and then a player can be ready to return to play. Calf lacerations can be difficult to treat due to the superficial nature of the Achilles tendon making it easier to lacerate with a skate. Calf lacerations can also injure the superficial nerves and lead to sensory and/or motor weakness in the leg.”

THN Columbus asked, “What long-term issues do players have after suffering this injury, specifically to the calf?” 

Dr. Rubin responded saying, “Local complications can occur including keloid formation, superficial nerve injury, scar tissue formation, and infection. If a muscle is lacerated, it is at risk of forming dense scar tissue even with suturing. There are different studies looking at techniques of suturing muscle lacerations to decrease the chance of scar tissue formation.”

Finally, THN Columbus asked, “Adam Fantilli's recovery time is expected to be 8 weeks, is this a normal recovery time for this injury, or like any injury, does it just depend on severity?” 

Dr. Rubin responded saying, “Based on the duration of return to play that was announced at 8 weeks, it can be assumed that there was a deeper gastrocnemius (calf muscle) injury requiring fixation. Prolonged recovery >8 weeks typically indicates a tendon injury as well.”

Photo Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press (Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

The Calder Race

Fantilli’s injury is expected to play a major role in the race for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s most proficient first-year player.  Prior to his injury, Fantilli was considered a strong contender to potentially pass Connor Bedard, the first overall draft pick and center for the Chicago Blackhawks, in goals and/or points after Bedard suffered a fractured jaw in early January. 

Bedard still leads the rookie points race with a six-point edge over Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber, with Marco Rossi (MIN) at third, Dmitri Voronkov (CBJ) at fourth, and Luke Hughes (NJD) now at fifth.

The top three picks in the 2023 NHL draft have all faced setbacks in the Calder Race due to injuries this season. With Bedard’s jaw injury in early January, Fantilli’s calf injury, and second overall pick Leo Carlsson’s knee sprain in late December (which sidelined him for 4-6 weeks), the odds might not be in the top three’s favor. 

A Young and Healthy Fantilli Will Be Back

Adam Fantilli was recently spotted at the Ohio State vs. Michigan men's hockey games, watching both his brother Luca and his close friend, former teammate, and fellow CBJ draftee Gavin Brindley. He was using a scooter to get around and to keep weight off of his injured leg. 

Fantilli has already established himself as a rising star in Columbus, and is poised for success in the NHL. His journey in the league has gathered admiration from fans across North America, evident by enthusiastic reactions he received at Schottenstein Center. Based on reports from numerous fans, Fantilli was mobbed by fans asking for pictures and autographs upon locating him in the arena.  

Fans are eager for Fantili’s return, hoping for a complete and speedy recovery. At just 19, he has age on his side– he’s sure to bounce back stronger than ever and continue making an impact on the ice. 

Edited by: Hadlea Lindstrom 

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