LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Making the choice of whether to play collegiate or Canadian junior hockey can be a challenge for many up-and-coming NHL prospects.
Take now-retired NHL star Jeremy Roenick as an example.
When he was an 18-year-old, first-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1988, Roenick initially elected to forego juniors in favor of Boston College. That is, until Roenick showed up for his first day of classes and saw the difficulty of the academic curriculum. The legend goes that when Roenick was handed his first class’ syllabus, he immediately walked out of class, quit school and committed instead to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Roenick has since said that he didn’t even know what 'syllabus' meant.
2014 Blue Jackets first-round draft pick Sonny Milano is not nearly as indecisive as Roenick was 26 years ago, despite recent reports that he was considering reneging on his own commitment to Boston College to join the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers.
“I committed (to Boston College) in November,” confirmed Milano at the United States’ World Junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. to BlueJackets.com earlier this week.
And of the reports that he was considering changing his mind?
“I don’t really know what that was about, to be honest,” said Milano. “It was just a little distraction. I’ve known I was going to BC since last November.”
For Milano, the reason he’s so decisive in his commitment to Boston College is because of the program’s track record at developing NHL players under head coach Jerry York, the winner of two of the last five NCAA championships and college hockey’s all-time winningest coach.
Twenty-six former Eagles – including Cam Atkinson of the Blue Jackets – played in at least one NHL game last season, far and away more than any other school in the nation.
“My top goal is to be a Blue Jacket one day,” says Milano. “I think going to BC is the best way to get there.”
Among Milano’s other reasons for choosing Boston College.
1. Like many recent draftees, Milano is a bit undersized in the weight department. With a typical NCAA season only consisting of 35 games and Canadian junior seasons surpassing 70 games, the NCAA schedule allows player to spend more time in the gym. For someone as naturally skilled as Milano, playing fewer games shouldn’t stunt his development in any way, while the extra gym time should allow his physique to be developed to be on par with his hockey skills.
Milano: “I’m not the biggest guy. It’s one of my weaknesses. I have to gain strength. There’s not too many games on the schedule. There’s a lot of time to train off the ice, which should help me get to the next level.”
2. Committing to college doesn’t necessarily mean that Milano “has to” stay at BC for four years. If his game accelerates quickly enough, he could even be in a Blue Jackets uniform as soon as this coming spring, which is not out of the question considering the strength/size advancements Milano has already made in the last year – he started last season at 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, currently weighs 190 and pictures himself needing to be about 200 pounds to be an everyday NHL player.
Milano: “You want to put on weight, but at the same time, you don’t want to be fat. You want to be stronger and remain fast. I’ve already put on some more weight this summer, so I’m getting there.”
3. He also just really, really likes BC’s campus in suburban Chesnut Hill, Massachusetts.
Milano: “It’s Boston. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world. But, it’s not as much the city; it’s more the campus that I love. The campus is just beautiful. I visited when I was about five – actually, probably 10 years old, when my sister was looking at colleges. I just loved it then. I’ve always wanted to go to BC.”
Milano attended the evaluation camp for Team USA’s 2015 World Junior squad all last week, where he dazzled as one of the U.S.' top forwards by netting 11 points in the team's exhibition schedule.
He reports to school on August 27.