Boston College hockey has been fortunate to have a largely unbroken streak of having a dominant, electrifying forward as the focal point of the offense, dating back to the early days of the Jerry York era. You know the names: Gionta. Gerbe. Atkinson. Gaudreau. Usually short, usually freakishly fast, and always a clinical finisher.
With the departure of Johnny Gaudreau this year, many are hoping Austin Cangelosi or Ryan Fitzgerald can fill some of that scoring and leadership void, and that's certainly possible. While neither was necessarily dominant in 2013-14, both had very solid freshman seasons, scoring 26 and 29 points respectively. By comparison, Cam Atkinson had 19 points in his freshman season before busting out for 53 in his sophomore year.
But while nobody wants to pin their hopes too much on someone who hasn't set foot on campus yet, it's hard not to be excited about Sonny Milano's potential to anchor the offense. Milano's status as a mid-first round pick (along with Alex Tuch, who should also go in the first round) makes him the most highly touted pro prospect to come to BC since Chris Kreider. Whether that translates to college dominance remains to be seen, but he certainly seems to have all the ingredients.
At 5'11'', he's not fully in the Gerbe/Atkinson/Gaudreau mold, but he's still a little bit on the smaller side, and by all accounts it's his speed, stickhandling, and creative ability that make him such a great prospect.
"He probably has as much skill and puck skills as anyone I've coached in 15 years," USNTDP U-18 coach Danton Cole told NHL.com. "He does some amazing things with the puck."
His hand-eye coordination was evident in the video that made its way around the 'net yesterday showing Milano demonstrating some of his stick skills while at the scouting combine in Toronto:
One prospect who wasn't showing any nerves was Sonny Milano, a Boston College commit who played for the US National Team Development Program last year. He is expected to be a high first-round pick after he put up 85 points in 58 games for the US National Under-18 Team, skating on the same line as projected 2015 top-two pick Jack Eichel. Milano's productive season puts him among the NTDP's top 10 scorers for a single year. That list includes NHLers Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Colin Wilson, just to name a few. Not bad company.
Milano is obviously known for his offensive prowess, from his high-end release on his shot to great on-ice vision to some supreme talent when handling the puck. The native of Massapequa, NY, showed just how skilled he can be when he performed a series of stick and puck tricks for NHL.com's cameras in some parking lot in Toronto.
In addition to his stick and puck skills, scouting reports also laud Milano's intensity and drive, as well as a propensity for getting under opponents' skin with some yapping and with hard-nosed play (a quality that's maybe been missing a little bit since Brian Gibbons departed). With his USNTDP linemate in Tuch joining him at the Heights next year, the potential could be there for Milano to quickly become a major factor for the Eagles.
In addition to continuing BC's tradition of high draft picks, Milano, a Long Island native, is likely to be the first 1st round draft pick from New York or New Jersey since Kyle Palmieri in 2009. It should be interesting to see where Milano lands in the draft in a few weeks' time - let's hope it's with a club with an existing relationship with BC, and one that encourages players to stay in school and develop for as long as is necessary.