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Sillinger already impressing with Blue Jackets

2021 first-round pick has turned heads early in his time in Columbus

by Grace Weidenhamer @BlueJacketsNHL /

After the CBJ prospect development camp and a successful rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich., it's obvious that first-round draft pick Cole Sillinger is already making a name for himself.

While Sillinger's stats -- including five points in three games in Traverse City -- are impressive, arguably his most notable attribute is his attitude.

"I can only control two things, my work ethic and my attitude," Sillinger said. "It doesn't matter if it's hockey related or not. If I do those two things well, I will be somewhat successful."

Although it is early, one could say Sillinger's attempt to characterize himself as "somewhat successful" is a bit of an understatement. He became the 12th overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft thanks in part to two excellent seasons in junior hockey, including scoring 24 goals in 31 games last year with Sioux Falls of the USHL.

Sillinger is only 18 years old but doesn't back down from any older players, and he sure isn't afraid to take a hit. While playing in Traverse City against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sillinger took a punch to the face after the whistle was blown, got up and simply smiled.

"Now that I'm playing, my goal is just to learn and grow every day and ultimately try to make the Columbus Blue Jackets," Sillinger said.

He might have that chance, as he was slotted on a line during the first day of practice Thursday with veteran scorers Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek.

"He didn't look nervous to me," head coach Brad Larsen said afterward. "It seems to me like he's got a nice, quiet confidence to him. A lot of guys do get a deer-in-the-headlights look. I didn't see that with him."

Sillinger is not the only family member to grace the ice at Nationwide Arena. His father, Mike, spent two seasons playing for the Blue Jackets from 2001-03.

"He kind of lets me learn my own way," Sillinger said. "I understand that just because he played in the NHL doesn't mean I have any extra doors open for myself. It's time for me to create my own path."

Sillinger wasted no time trying to create his own path in Columbus. Although he did admit he's still slightly in awe of NHL players, he's very accustomed to being around them.

"It was really nice getting settled in Columbus early," Sillinger said. "There's a bunch of NHL guys here and it's been really eye-opening for me (this summer). Sometimes it's like, 'Oh my God, there's an NHL player,' but I'm super comfortable with all of them. They're all really great guys and hopefully will be my teammates one day."

Sillinger isn't overly bold or brash despite being a first-round pick. In true hockey form, he's humble and modest.

"When I was going through the draft, I really didn't have any expectations on where overall I was going to be picked," he said. "I can only control what I can and continue to work on what I need to work on.

"For me that's working on my quickness and explosiveness, so that's what I focused on this summer. If I want to make the transition easier for myself."

It's his work ethic that makes Sillinger mature beyond his 18 years. He wouldn't mind following in the footsteps of his father, who remained in the league for 17 seasons and played for an NHL-record 12 teams. CBJ fans would gladly root for Sillinger 2.0 well into the 2030s.

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