USA Today Images

Milano maximizing more ice time with Monsters

2014 first-round pick looking for next opportunity to stick with Columbus

November 16, 2018 - 11:11 am
Categories: 

CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) — If there’s one thing that Sonny Milano likes to do, it’s score.

What hockey player doesn’t, right?

But the Massapequa, New York native has made finding the back of the net his trademark. It’s no secret he’s proud of that classification.

“I like to score goals,” Milano says with a smile. “I definitely know how to get open and I’m pretty sneaky.”

It’s why the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted him with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Praised for his soft hands and stick handling, Milano scored 29 goals and 86 points for the U.S. National Under-18 team prior to being drafted.

Four years later, it’s mid-November in 2018 and Milano is in a familiar setting: Quicken Loans Arena. It’s the same building he and his teammates raised a Calder Cup championship two years ago.

However, many of those teammates (Zach Werenski, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Lukas Sedlak, Markus Hannikainen) have secured roles with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Milano did, too, appearing in 55 NHL games last season while scoring 14 goals and compiling 22 points.

“This year is a little unfortunate,” Milano said. “I had a pretty good year in the NHL last year.”

Though his 6-foot, 200 pound frame may blend in among the other Monsters jerseys on the ice, Milano certainly stands out. Both in the lineup and on the stat sheet.

The 22-year-old looked— and felt— primed for a breakout year in 2019. Instead, a slow start (1-0-1 in eight games) has him back in Cleveland, fine-tuning his craft.

“I know how it works. Obviously it’s unfortunate but it happens to a lot of people,” Milano said.  “You’ve just got to keep working to get back up (to the NHL).

Many of those same faces Milano was celebrating with, he’s now competing with. Organizational depth can be a blessing for a franchise like the Blue Jackets, but it can be burden for a young player trying to consistently crack the lineup.

“It’s a numbers game obviously. I was the odd man out there,” Milano said. “But I know that injuries do happen, so I’ve just got to stay prepared.”

It hasn’t taken Milano long to feel comfortable in a Monster sweater. In four games, he’s recorded two goals and an assist.

While Milano thrives in the offensive zone, he also understands the importance of being a two-way player. The concept of defensive responsibility is not lost on the speedy forward.

“I think I’ve just got to use my body better,” Milano said. “Considering I’m not that small of a guy, I need to be a little stronger on pucks.”

With just 70 NHL regular season games under his belt, there’s still plenty of time for Milano to round into form.

“Stay positive and enjoy it and you keep trying to get better every single day,” Milano said.