You want to be a hockey player. You don’t want to be a guy who just flips pucks off the ice. That’s not really going to help your game. That’s just something you do for fun to mess around when I’m bored or something. - Sonny Milano
TORONTO, ON -- In the ninth grade, a 14-year-old Sonny Milano saw then-Saint John Sea Dogs winger Tomas Jurco doing stick tricks in the dressing room at the 2011 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
And he was amazed.
Some three and a half years later, the US National Team Development Program standout finds himself a YouTube sensation not unlike Jurco for his tricks in the parking lot of the Westin Bristol Place in Toronto -- in sandals, no less -- while at the NHL Scouting Combine.
“I watched Tomas Jurco,” said Milano, eligible to be selected at the 2014 NHL Draft later this month. “He was at the CHL prospect’s game. He was flipping pucks. I saw it online somewhere. I thought it was pretty cool so I gave it a shot.”
He did, and the video showcasing his developed skill went viral.
In the six days since the clip went live, Milano’s YouTube showcase is closing in on 130,000 views with another 28,000 coming by way of NHL.com
“I’ve been getting texts from friends and family,” said the forward, who admitted an errant attempt in the video almost hit a scout walking into the hotel. “It’s pretty cool. I didn’t know it was going to go that viral.
“I’ve got a couple of followers (on Twitter). That helps out a little.”
The exposure has been overwhelming for the 18-year-old Boston College recruit who recorded 85 points in 58 games for the NTDP -- among the top-10 single season performances in the program’s history.
But he wants to be known as more than a one-trick pony.
“I’m not going to be going out on the ice flipping pucks,” Milano said. “I mean, I guess a little hand-eye, but it’s mostly just me having fun when I’m bored just sitting on the couch maybe I’ll grab a stick and start messing around with the puck.
“You want to be a hockey player. You don’t want to be a guy who just flips pucks off the ice. That’s not really going to help your game. That’s just something you do for fun to mess around when I’m bored or something. I don’t think it reflects anything in my game. It’s just something fun to do.”
Milano’s slick hands are a big part of his game, though.
The 5-foot-11.5, 183-pound left-winger was slotted 16th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final ranking for the 2014 NHL Draft largely because of his offensive creativity and fast feet.
It’s helped him mirror an NHLer who hasn’t been shy to put his fancy stick work on YouTube, either.
“I think Patrick Kane,” said Milano, who had three goals and 10 points in seven games to help the United States to a gold medal finish at the World Under-18 Championship in April. “I think we kind of fall in the same category. He’s a pretty good player offensively and I try to model my game after him.”
Kane’s offensive talents made him the first overall pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
While he doesn’t share quite the lofty expectations that the two-time Stanley Cup Champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner had his draft year, Milano is still looking forward to draft day.
“Anything could happen,” the probably first-round pick said. “I’m just looking forward to it.”