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It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Adam Fantilli was living up to the hype as a rookie in the NHL, showcasing skills that could make him a Blue Jackets standout for years to come.

And then, suddenly, it was over. With one freak accident in a late Sunday night game in Seattle, Fantilli went from one of the top-scoring rookies in the league to a bystander, someone whose season was over in the blink of an eye.

For the fans, it robbed them of some excitement each and every night, as Fantilli’s early returns showed the promise one would hope for out of the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. For Fantilli, there was frustration, as someone who had never had to miss a large stretch of time on the ice was stuck rehabbing a calf laceration caused by an inadvertent tangle with Kraken forward Jared McCann's skate on Jan. 28.

It was just unfortunate, but in the end, Fantilli leaves his first season at the NHL level with a strong base from which to build. He may have missed the last two months-plus of the season, but the 19-year-old learned a lot in his first trip through the NHL, things that he can’t wait to put into use as he tries to build his career into being a franchise center for the Blue Jackets.

“There’s a lot of things that I learned,” he said at the end of the season. “I learned quite a bit about the locker room, being around the guys, the travel, just playing as often as we do. We have a great group of guys in there that helped me acclimate really quickly, so that was awesome.

“It’s just learning to be a pro. Coming out of college, it’s a completely different lifestyle, playing on the weekends and practicing during the week. So getting used to living that pro lifestyle and taking care of your body and having your body and your skill level and all of that be your job was a lot of fun for me. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Just learning how to manage that and be the best pro I can be.”

Those are the types of details that will help him get to the top of his craft, and Fantilli started his career with an impressive rookie season. In the end, he skated 49 games, posting 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points. Despite missing all the time he did, Fantilli still finished tied for 12th among NHL rookies in goals and 14th in points, and it’s likely he would have been in the top five of each of those categories had his season not come to a sudden end in Seattle.

Fantilli spent the weeks after his injury doing anything he could to get back on the ice, and while he has resumed skating – he practiced with the Blue Jackets ahead of the final game this week – he was unable to make it back for the end of the season.

Was it hard to have patience?

"Go ask the trainers,” he joked. “Every single day I was like, ‘Good to get on the ice yet?’ I was always in their ear trying to get back on the ice, and they were nice enough to build me a little block that I could go out and stand on the ice and wear my boot and still shoot pucks and stickhandle and stuff. I was kind of losing my mind.”

Unfortunately, the reality was the injury took longer to heal than the original eight-week diagnosis, but that also makes sense if one considers how often they use their calf muscle. It’s certainly not a normal injury in NHL circles, and Fantilli acknowledged that at the time of the injury, he was scared of what might happen.

“I've never been cut that deep before, so my mind went to the worst-case scenario,” he said. “I was like, 'Oh, like my whole Achiilles is gone.’ My foot wasn't working properly and stuff, and when I stepped back down, like I didn't feel like any bounce off my heel. It felt like mushy and stuff. It was kind of gross.

"I started freaking out, and the doctor came in and said, 'No, like the Achilles tendon is fine.’ So that was kind of a big relief. Went back to Columbus got some tough news that it was gonna be eight weeks; it wasn't eight weeks, it took a little bit longer to heal. It's a weird injury.”

The good news is Fantilli is back at a point where he could skate with the Blue Jackets the past few days, and he expects to be full strength relatively soon and could play in this summer’s IIHF World Championship if he gets the call from Canada GM Rick Nash.

And while there were some setbacks for Fantilli this season, there were also some memorable moments. Among those, he listed the opening game of the season on his birthday back on Oct. 12 as well as his first trip to play in Toronto, where he was greeted by a large group of family and friends when the Blue Jackets played there in mid-December.

There was also the incident during the season when he was late to practice because he had been pranked by teammates, who taped his gloves together, cut his skate laces and placed a water cup in his helmet.

“I know exactly who it is, and I'm going to do nothing about it,” he said now when asked about the culprit, drawing laughs from the media. “It’s not someone I can get back. I’m just gonna have to take it.”

All joking aside, it was a learning year for Fantilli, one in which he took as many lessons as possible, including one about dealing with adversity. Now, he has a summer to try to apply some of those lessons and be ready for the fall when he returns to Columbus.

“I think going into many summers, there are a lot of aspects I want to work on to perfect and become the best player I can be,” he said. “Going into this summer, I obviously know there’s certain gaps I want to close with the best players in the world. Some of the guys I’ve gotten to play with and play against this year has been really cool. You see just how far behind you are and how much work you have to do to get to those levels you want to get it.

“It’s gonna be a fun summer.”

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