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Bright days in store for Blue Jackets prospect Milano

by Mike G. Morreale / Columbus Blue Jackets

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- There will be better times ahead for Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Sonny Milano.

It just won't be on the ice representing his team at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament.

The 6-foot, 183-pound left wing, who sustained facial injuries in the second period of a 6-4 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Friday, was forced to sit out Saturday and told he would be a spectator the remainder of the tournament.

Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said Milano, a first-round pick (No. 16) in the 2014 NHL Draft, would not require surgery and that he would return to Columbus at the conclusion of the tournament. Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen added recovery could take as long as two weeks.

"My back was turned towards the glass and I tried turning around and kind of got low and the [opposing player] kind of got my head and smashed it against the glass [left cheek first]," Milano said. "He got my orbital bone and cheek bone. I thought maybe I could put on a cage and play, but that won't happen."

No penalty was called on the play.

Though the news was disappointing to Milano, the native of Massapequa, N.Y., remained upbeat in a conversation with NHL.com. The future is certainly bright for Milano, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract on Sept. 11 with the Blue Jackets.

"Obviously, I'll have to make sure everything is OK with my face, but I'm really excited for the season to start," Milano said. "The doctors said it was a fractured orbital bone and cheek so we'll just have to make sure everything is good to go."

When Milano is finally cleared to return to the ice, it'll be with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. In August, Milano decided he would play for the Whalers instead of fulfilling the commitment he made to Boston College in Hockey East.

The decision wasn't at all easy.

"It was the hardest decision of my life," he said. "I had a lot of talks with my family and I just think overall, and knowing I really couldn't go wrong either way, I just thought the OHL was better for me. I just thought that was the best way for me to get to the NHL."

Milano said he informed Boston College coach Jerry York of his decision in a telephone conversation.

"I offered to go talk to him face-to-face and he said it was fine, that the phone call was good enough," Milano said. "It was obviously tough but it had to be done. Again, the decision was between me, my family and my agent and it had nothing to do with Plymouth or Boston College; I was just looking at it for me from a hockey standpoint.

"The Blue Jackets were fine with whatever decision I made."

Milano, No. 42 on NHL.com's ranking of the Top 60 prospects in the League, helped the United States to a gold medal at the 2014 World Under-18 Championship in Finland when he connected for three goals and 10 points in seven games. He had a goal and two assists in a 5-2 victory against the Czech Republic in the gold medal game.

Milano was invited to the U.S. national junior team development camp in August and is hoping he can impress enough to earn a roster spot for his country at the 2015 World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal in January.

"Hopefully, I'll have a strong first half of the season [in Plymouth] and make that team," Milano said. "I'm familiar with a lot of them and we have a mix of players to choose from. Since the tournament is in Canada, it'll really be exciting with the fans and with how loud they can get."

Milano scored 29 goals and 86 points in 58 games for the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program last season. He said the opportunity to be with his teammates in Traverse City has been a great experience and looks forward to one day suiting up at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

"Everything in Columbus is great; I've walked around the city a couple of times and love it," he said. "The team is getting better and better, too. You can see by the way the prospects are playing here. We have a great young team so it's a bright future and I'm excited to be a part of that."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer

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