Cole Sillinger Makes a Strong Impression With Blue Jackets, Earning Him the Right To Stay in the NHL

By Will Chase on November 5, 2021 at 1:45 pm
Cole Sillinger of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena.
Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Sillinger had his first-career multi-goal game as part of a three-point night during the Blue Jackets' 5-4 overtime win in Denver.

While that game was huge for Sillinger, an 18-year-old rookie enjoying a fast start to his NHL career, he officially gets to stay in the big leagues and enjoy the party some more.

That might have been the looming question, at least among fans, as to whether Sillinger would continue to play for the Blue Jackets in Columbus after nine NHL games, a number he hit on Wednesday. He will play his 10th game Saturday night against the Avalanche at Nationwide Arena.

But with the way he's played, the answer to that question is a resounding "yes."

Upon being drafted, there seemed to be a chance he could play for Medicine Hat of the WHL — his previous team in 2019-20 — or take it up a notch with a new challenge in the AHL with the Cleveland Monsters. But a strong preseason scratched Medicine Hat off the list and even a stay in the American League. Now that Sillinger has officially received word that he's staying in Columbus, the clock is ticking on the first season of his entry level contract.

And it's a no-brainer.

The Columbus, Ohio native and son of former Blue Jacket Mike Sillinger has proven that he belongs. As Sillinger continues to get acquainted with his teammates, coaches, and the rest of the NHL, he already has looked the part. So far, he has five points (three goals, two assists) to go along with 10 penalty minutes.

Wednesday's game against the Avalanche was Sillinger's strongest outing to date, posting his aforementioned first-career multi-point and multi-goal game.

Sillinger played a season-high 24 shifts and logged 16:01 for the night, his second-highest amount of ice-time. The five shots on net were his second-most in a game and he went 7-2 in the face-off circle...not too shabby.

Let's take a look at all three points by Sillinger, starting with his game-tying goal at 1:13 of the third period: 

Then his go-ahead goal at 4:26 of the third: 

And finally, his assist on Jake Bean's overtime winner: 

Sillinger spoke postgame on Wednesday, talking about the success on the ice with Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek.

"I think it started with our exits in the (defensive) zone," said Sillinger. "I think we did a pretty good job on that tonight, and on that first one there. (Laine) made a good play to get it out. (Voracek) was obviously moving his feet and, playing with a player like that, you just have to get to the net, put your stick on the ice and that's what happened. He made a great play."

Sillinger said he's starting to find chemistry on the No. 1 line, which will now be missing Laine for 4-6 weeks with an oblique injury.

"I thought that when we were clicking in the (defensive) zone, we were getting the puck out and creating chances in the (offensive) zone. Thankfully we got a couple in the back of the net there," Sillinger said.

"They're two amazing players that have been in the league for a long time and well-respected by the whole NHL, so it was an exciting opportunity for me and I'm glad it ended up the way it did."

Now that Sillinger is a month into his first NHL season, how much more prepared does he feel playing with guys like Laine and Voracek? 

"I just feel more comfortable overall, just with the NHL pace and then the style and strength of the guys," he said. "So, yeah, felt more comfortable playing with them and especially because I know I'm better too."

What was his confidence like after scoring his first goal of the game?

"I mean, when anyone gets one goal in the game, I mean, they're going to have a little bit of adrenaline, so maybe picked up some more energy and, yeah, just passed it to (Gabriel Carlsson) and he made a great play," Sillinger said. "It started with (Laine) along the wall again there and just gave it to (Carlsson) and went to the net, and made a great saucer pass and thankfully, it slipped through the goalie's legs."

Another interesting quote from Sillinger was what he said about road trips: "I'm getting closer to the guys and with them all the time, taking me out for dinners and stuff like that, so, yeah, it's a great time."

That's an important, and perhaps often overlooked element to finding chemistry and bonding with your teammates. And after that dynamic was largely removed, or at least altered last season in the wake of a COVID-shortened season and the appropriate protocols in place, it has to be great for the Blue Jackets — the youngest team in the league — and their players and coaches to be closer towards their normal everyday routine.

Especially during a rigorous 82-game NHL season. 

It's certainly not the whole reason, but chalk up a lot of the craziness to last year to the Blue Jackets' malaise in 2020-21.

These are important days, weeks, and months ahead for Sillinger to get to know his team and continue to refine his talent, and develop a rapport for himself and alongside his teammates. What better situation for him to get to do that with some of the world's best players?

Can he stick to playing with Laine and Voracek most of this season? 

Surely, he's going to bounce around among the lineups but he's earned his spot on the roster. Now, he wants to continue finding the scoresheet.

You can go back to the game against the Detroit Red Wings when he was more or less stapled to the bench for the latter part of that game. Call those learning moments, coaches' decisions, what have you. He bounced back after that and has ever since.

So far.

But let's not get too far ahead. Sillinger is 18 and there will be mistakes. But he's making quite the impression within the organization and if he hasn't already, will soon be turning heads outside of Columbus.