They grow up so fast.
The Columbus Blue Jackets 2021-22 regular season is almost over and with that, Cole Sillinger's first campaign in the NHL.
The youngest player in the game at 18 years old impressed all throughout training camp, basically making it a worse-kept secret that he would make the team out of camp and be in the lineup for opening night. On the year, he's played in 78 games, scoring 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists).
April has been his best month, putting up highs in goals (five), assists (5), and points (10).
|Cole Sillinger's Point Production By Month||Oct.||Nov.||Dec.||Jan.||Feb.||Mar.||Apr.|
On Mar. 13, Sillinger scored all three goals for the month of March in the win over the Vegas Golden Knights for his first career hat trick.
Cole Sillinger 18 years old and gets a hatty in the NHLis that good? pic.twitter.com/k2fVIxhLUj— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) March 14, 2022
Cole Sillinger is the first 18-year-old with a Hat Trick since Patrik Laine on Feb. 14, 2017 vs DAL (Laine was 18 years, 301 days old).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 14, 2022
He is the 2nd 18-year-old with a Hat Trick in Blue Jackets history, joining Nikita Filatov on Jan. 10, 2009 vs MIN (18 years - 230 days). pic.twitter.com/7SEGNuI5EX
This would be reason enough for great optimism about his future, but the optimism grows even more promising when combined w/the fact Sillinger, through 81 games, leads the team in 5v5 indv. scoring chances (141) & is 2nd in 5v5 indv. high-danger chances (55).#CBJ https://t.co/SAOP8LGRBa— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) April 29, 2022
The other big story that links Sillinger is being part of the trade—the 2021 12th overall pick—that sent Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks. We all know that, but as we've seen transpire this season, Sillinger is among the organizational mainstays and lineup regulars, with Adam Boqvist being the other.
"Sillinger, youngest player in the league all season long, and he's had more ups than downs," President John Davidson said. "Every time he took a step backward he took three steps forward. This kid is a kid that's going to bleed Blue Jacket blood for a long time.
"The idea of drafting a player, having him come in and just love the city, love his team, love his teammates and play the game the right way. Yes, that's a good thing."
Along with that same idea of blending the youth of the present and future together, Apr. 24 against the Edmonton Oilers marked the first time that Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, and Kent Johnson were in the same lineup together.
Imagine those three together on a line.
"I like the creativity we could have," Sillinger said. "I think we all bring different things to the table. (Johnson)'s obviously a really good disher and can score. (Chinakhov's) bomb, even (Bemstrom) in the middle there, I think obviously shoot-first kind of guy and just myself, to make plays on the net and get in front.
"I think if we get out there and we're executing, we can score a couple goals."
Though this season doesn't correlate with playoffs, it's important for the young guys on the team to build chemistry.
"You just have to take advantage and build chemistry within each other so in the future, it is better. It's exciting."
With the Blue Jackets missing Sean Kuraly for the final game with a broken foot, responsibilities for players like Sillinger increase.
"I think all of us as a group as centermen are gonna have to step up and take a little bit more responsibilities," Sillinger said. "Just little details of the defensive zone, and face-offs, and even on our (penalty kill).
Everyone's gonna have to step up in those situations."
Sillinger did his part in Thursday's 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning with a go-ahead goal in the second period at 10:47, a 32-second response to the Lightning tying it up moments earlier.
Alongside Jake Voracek, Sillinger co-led the game with five shots on goal along with a blocked shot in 17:34. He had a game-high 13 face-off wins in 23 opportunities (56.5%).
Sillinger and the Blue Jackets conclude the 2021-22 season Friday night in Pittsburgh as they look to avoid the series sweep against the Penguins.