Brad Larsen Is Encouraged by Cole Sillinger's Progress, Says "He's Not a One-Trick Pony"

By 1OB Staff on October 11, 2021 at 5:01 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cole Sillinger speaks to reporters after a preseason NHL game at Nationwide Arena.

Some think the best way to turn heads is to score goals.

While the offense is welcomed, Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen is taking a bigger-picture view with rookie center Cole Sillinger.

Think back to the NHL Draft in July. Columbus had three first-round picks and GM Jarmo Kekalainen was thrilled to see Sillinger available at No. 12 overall, the team's second of the three picks. But perhaps no one outside of an overly-optimistic Kekalainen or Sillinger himself could have seen what was to come in the fall.

The 18-year-old will be only the second of his age to suit for Columbus on opening night when he takes the ice Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes at Nationwide Arena.

It's not small thing, either. Kekalainen is a patient GM and waits for his prospects to blow him away before bringing them to the NHL level. This decision is merited, though, and Sillinger's play beginning in Traverse City leading into his first NHL training camp has earned him the opportunity. 

"He's not like a one-trick pony...all these intangibles you try to teach guys, it comes natural to him."– Brad Larsen on Cole Sillinger

Larsen, speaking Monday as the Blue Jackets kicked off their first "game week" of the regular season, said he's kept a close eye on Sillinger since their four-game rookie tournament in northern Michigan.

"I told him (Monday), I keep looking at you and trying to get rid of you but I can't," Larsen said. "Even in the games where maybe he didn't have the energy, he still thinks it really well. He still provides something for your team. He understands the 200-foot game, he understands positioning... he does a lot of things that pros just don't do naturally, they have to be taught. I don't know if his dad taught him or if he had good coaching, but he's got a solid grasp of what it looks like to be a centerman.

"But in saying that, he's still 18, he's still young and now we're going to start seeing some really good lineups, so we'll see how he does."

Sillinger was slotted at center on Monday between Boone Jenner and Max Domi, and Larsen said he and the organization are committed to seeing it through with their rookie center. That's where he will play, because that's where they believe he's at his best.

"He's a centerman. I've got no intention of putting him on the wing. He's got a bright future, whether that's now or in the long term," Larsen said.