It's very rare for players to be selected in the NHL Draft and make their NHL debut in the same year.
It's even rarer for them to come in and make an immediate impact.
In the case of Cole Sillinger, he's been able to do both. The Blue Jackets drafted him with the 12th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, and he was playing NHL games for the club three months later at the age of 18.
"The whole scenario and situation, from the draft, I don't think could have worked out any better," Sillinger told Bob McElligott and Jody Shelly on The Inside Edge podcast. "My dad played here, I was born here, we have a lot of great family friends here, and it just seemed like the perfect fit."
In ten games with the Blue Jackets, Sillinger has tallied 4-2-6, including a game-winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche.
"It's been a whirlwind," said Sillinger. "For an 18-year-old kid, there's not anything else I'd want to do. Growing up, I've always wanted to play in the NHL, and maybe it's happened sooner than I expected. I'm just trying to take it all in, and it's been awesome so far."
Sillinger started the season on the third line, but he was bumped up to the top line with Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek against Colorado and didn't disappoint. After Laine was placed on IR with an oblique strain, Yegor Chinakhov joined Sillinger and Voracek. The two rookies combined for Sillinger's game-winner against the Avalanche.
"Ever since I got drafted, that was the goal: to make an impression at an NHL camp and make a push to make a team," said Sillinger. "If I came to camp thinking that I wasn't going to make the team and was ultimately thinking that I was going to get sent home, I probably would have got sent home fairly quickly, so I had that mindset of 'I want to be here, and I deserve to be here,' and I think that's brought me a long way."
He's also on the Blue Jackets' first power-play unit and is sixth among Blue Jackets forwards in average TOI at 14 minutes even. Per Money Puck, Sillinger is first among Blue Jackets forwards in expected goals per 60 minutes (all situations) at 1.55, which is incredible for an 18-year-old who was playing in the USHL last year.
In limited ice time, the Chinakhov-Sillinger-Voracek line has been very effective. In just over ten minutes together, the trio tallied 1.1xG while limiting their opposition to 0.4xG. The Blue Jackets have a lot to look forward to, especially if Kent Johnson can make a similar impact next year. Johnson and Sillinger, whether they play together or on different lines, will keep the Blue Jackets' trajectory headed upwards.