Sonny Milano arrived with plenty of fan fare when the Blue Jackets drafted him in the first round three years ago. There was the YouTube video, the other YouTube video, and plenty of scouting reports touting Milano's raw talent.
He was determined to be more than just "the YouTube kid," and after a challenging and inconsistent full first year of pro hockey in 2015-16, Milano has taken his game to another level this season. His emergence comes at a great time for the Cleveland Monsters, who have seen several key players (Zach Werenski, Josh Anderson, Lukas Sedlak, Oliver Bjorkstrand) graduate to the Blue Jackets after last year's Calder Cup championship season.
There is still work to be done, but Milano is making a case for full-time NHL duty in 2017-18. He very well could be part of the Blue Jackets' "Black Aces" during the playoffs next month, but for now, he's doing his part to help the Monsters make a late run and sneak into the playoffs.
A year ago, Milano played 54 games and recorded 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists). In three fewer games so far this season, Milano has upped his output to 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) and has had his share of "wow" moments. His nearly 40 percent success rate in the shootout has supplied some highlights, as well.
Over the weekend, he was featured on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays of the night for this below-the-goal-line piece of wizardry:
With roughly two seasons of pro hockey under his belt, Milano's game has grown and his on-ice responsibility is growing as a result. First-year coach John Madden has handed him more ice time and given him a larger role in a variety of situations, developing a level of trust that Milano seems determined to pay back.
Yes, the Blue Jackets are headed to the Stanley Cup playoffs and that's reason for excitement. But one of their top prospects appears to be finding his stride at the pro level, which only adds to the optimism surrounding the club's young nucleus of talent.