If the saga of Miles Wood has taught us anything, it's that we should be wary of unnamed "sources" on Twitter. So don't take any of this to the bank just yet. But Jeff Marek of Sportsnet in Canada sent shockwaves through the Hockey East world yesterday with his tweet, reporting the long-feared rumor that Sonny Milano would skip out on attending Boston College in favor of signing with the Ontario Hockey League:
Also, look for CBJ 1st rounder Sonny Milano to announce he'll forego playing at Boston College in favour of the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL.— Jeff Marek (@JeffMarek) August 3, 2014
Marek is well-connected and highly respected for his knowledge of both the junior game in Canada and NCAA hockey, so it's safe to say he probably has good information. Marek's tweet led to local reporters and bloggers hitting up their own sources, and getting contradictory answers:
Well he hasn't informed BC that he is leaving so.....— BC Hockey Blog (@bchockeyblog1) August 3, 2014
So to clear it up.....BC fully expects Milano to arrive in fall— BC Hockey Blog (@bchockeyblog1) August 4, 2014
ICYMI - Sonny Milano has not signed with Plymouth and no announcement is pending, per sources.— Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonCHN) August 4, 2014
Of course, Marek's tweet did say "expect" to hear Milano make the announcement, not that a deal was done. So McMahon and the BC Hockey Blog could be dead-on even if Milano has made up his mind to head to Canada.
Aaron Portzline, who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets for the Columbus Dispatch, seemed to be more plugged in to the situation:
#CBJ have told Milano and his family that they'd support either decision. But most agree he'd be better served, hockey-wise, playing OHL.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) August 4, 2014
Some in Milano's family want him to go to college. But the kid is a rink rat, has hard time imagining a 35-game schedule, limited practice.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) August 4, 2014
Milano has told those around him that he'd make a decision -- BC or OHL -- after the US national junior camp is finished.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) August 4, 2014
World Junior evaluation camp runs through this coming Friday, so if no announcement is pending until after camp, this drama will keep going for a little while.
Obviously, this would be a big blow to BC, and would be disappointing news so close to the season. Barring extraordinary circumstances, it's too late for anyone not currently slated to arrive this fall to make it on to the roster.
Unfortunately, this is the fire BC plays with by recruiting such highly-touted pro prospects, and it's something the Eagles will have to deal with moving forward. BC has been able to avoid a lot of early departures or lost recruits through the years as they've successfully been able to get even super-talented players to "buy in" to the school, the program, and the importance of the degree along with progressing toward the NHL. While there's been no lack of NHL talent on the Heights throughout Jerry York's tenure, the caliber of NHL prospect signed by BC over the past couple of years exceeds what we've seen in the past, and it's only natural to expect high first round draft picks to be thinking first and foremost about what's best for their NHL career, with progress toward a college degree being a secondary concern.
What's disappointing in this particular case, if Milano does go to the OHL, is that it seemed like we had dodged this bullet. Given that Milano was selected last year in the OHL draft, there was plenty of time for him to come to this decision. But with the NHL Draft coming and going, and Milano being selected by a team that now has a history with BC, with Milano attending BC orientation, and with the staff expecting Milano's arrival (and even assigning him the #13 shirt) it felt like the Milano watch was shifting to whether he'd be a one-and-done, rather than whether or not he'd show up at all.
The other disappointing thing is that anyone who watches the NHL knows that the league is loaded with prospects that came out of Boston College, whose development has gone just fine despite passing up on playing in Canada. It seems like more and more top prospects are accepting the NCAA route as a valid option, with some insanely good talent coming in to the college ranks this year, including another BC recruit, Noah Hanifin, and BU's Jack Eichel. On the flip side, you wonder if the last two BC prospects to bolt for Canada - Brandon Shea and Kenny Ryan - wonder if they may have been better off going to college.
At the end of the day, I can't and won't begrudge Milano whichever route he chooses. Much as teams need to be expected to act in their best interest (see: the long and never-ending discussion about the "gentleman's agreement"), players should be expected to act in their professional best interest as well. Milano has already done that once, pulling out of his Notre Dame commitment to flip to BC, a team with more recent success and a more up-tempo offensive system. It's unlikely that the decision had much to do with, say, CSOM's US News & World Report ranking. If Milano, his advisors, and the Blue Jackets think his development would be better served by going to the OHL, that's what he should do. It's also probably better that he make this decision now rather than show up, not buy in, and leave in the middle of the season, as Charlie Coyle did at BU a few years ago. There's still time for BC to figure out what their lineup would look like without Milano in it and plan accordingly - and they may have to do just that.
Stay tuned for more updates as this story develops, as well as thoughts on how it may impact BC's offense and their overall chances this coming season.