The Blue Jackets loaned Cole Sillinger to the AHL's Cleveland Monsters on Tuesday, a move that would have been extremely unlikely at the start of the season, especially after Sillinger recorded 16-15--31 in 79 games as an 18-year-old rookie in 2021-22.
But, growth is not always linear. In 64 NHL games this season, Sillinger has scored just 3-8--11.
However, there are several reasons why sending Sillinger to the AHL makes a lot of sense. First, the Monsters are currently just two points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand, unlike the Blue Jackets, who have already been eliminated from playoff contention. So, he'll be able to play meaningful games to finish out the regular season and help Cleveland make the playoffs, which will add even more meaningful hockey to his schedule.
Next, if he's not the top-line center, he should at least be the Monsters' second-line center, which is a role that has evaded him with the Blue Jackets this season. The Jackets drafted him 12th overall to be a top-six center, so it makes sense that he should be getting minutes in that role, even if that has to be at the AHL level. To me, it makes no sense to have a prospect you project as a top-six center and play him in the bottom-six.
"He's going to play meaningful games," associate coach Pascal Vincent said Thursday after practice. "He's going to be asked to play a lot of minutes."
I think it's also important to remember that as a rookie his three most-common line-mates in terms of time on ice were Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jakub Voracek, and Gustav Nyquist, per moneypuck.com. Those are three veterans who have had, at the very least, solid NHL careers. This season, his four most-common line-mates have been rookies Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko along with Liam Foudy and Emil Bemstrom. While Johnson and Marchenko have both shined as rookies, Foudy and Bemstrom should ideally be in Cleveland for the entire season.
While technically this is a demotion for Sillinger, it can be a great opportunity for his development.
"It never hurt any players to go play in the American [Hockey] League," Vincent said.
Hopefully, that holds true for Sillinger.