Analysis: The Time is Now For Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect Sonny Milano to "Arrive"

By Dan Dukart on July 21, 2017 at 9:45 am
Sonny Milano
Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

Sonny Milano, now age 21, has been in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization since 2003.

Just kidding, but it almost feels like it, doesn't it? 

The club's first-round pick in 2014, Milano has responsibly paid his dues in the AHL, improving the defensive side of his game while maintaining impressive offensive flair. 

Milano led the Cleveland Monsters in points this past season, posting 18 goals and 29 assists for 47 points in 63 games. T.J. Tynan (41 in 72) and Markus Hannikainen (37 in 57) were his closest competitors. There's no doubting that the skill is there. The goal on this video is virtually an indefensible play.

But even so, the smooth-stickhandling Milano has only played seven regular season NHL games in his career, and added a playoff game this season against the Penguins. In those seven games, he's registered zero goals and one assist and has averaged 12:25 of ice time per night. In his one playoff game, he played just 6:47. 

So much is expected of first round picks in today's NHL. If Milano were a third-rounder, for example, he wouldn't garner anywhere near the attention or criticism. But unfortunately, the NHL is an expectations-based business, and high hopes were (and are) placed on a talent like Milano, who drew comparisons to Chicago's Patrick Kane during his draft year.

Look no further than Pierre-Luc Dubois and the constant chatter around him to see if he, at just 19 years of age, has what it takes to play center at the NHL level this year. 

While other recent first-rounders such as Alex Wennberg, Zach Werenski, and even to a lesser extent Gabriel Carlsson have impressed early in their NHL careers, Milano seems to always be on the cusp. 

There has perhaps never been such a clear path to the NHL for Milano as there is this year. With the departure of Scott Hartnell, there is a clear hole in the bottom-six on the wing. He'll battle for a spot against newly-acquired Tyler Motte as well as Markus Hannikainen, among others. 

Milano's game is based around creativity, but a player needs confidence to excel at the NHL level. Unlike Hannikainen, for example, who plays a much simpler game, Milano needs to be an offensive threat whenever he touches the puck. Now that his defensive game is, by all accounts, improved, he should have ample chances to prove to the coaching staff that he can finally hang at the NHL level. 

The time is now for Milano to seize his opportunity. The Blue Jackets certainly hope he's ready. 

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