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Blue Jackets' Milano more than video sensation

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Being "that guy" can be a blessing or a curse depending on the circumstances.

For Sonny Milano, fame came long before the Columbus Blue Jackets made the left wing the 16th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Three years ago he made a YouTube video of his stickhandling skills after being inspired by a similar showcase from Tomas Jurco, now with the Detroit Red Wings.

With almost 50,000 views, the video earned Milano an online following, which expanded when he recorded a new set of videos for at the NHL Scouting Combine in May.

So when his name was called by Columbus at the draft, some of those followers must have been thinking, "Oh, that guy."

Now that he's among other prospects at Blue Jackets development camp, which runs through Friday, he wants future videos to be of his game highlights.

"You want to be known as a hockey player, and hopefully I'll be able to prove myself and become known as the on-ice guy instead of the guy who can do stuff off the ice," Milano said. "They were fun to do and I don't regret doing them, but I'm a hockey player and you have to do it on the ice. I wouldn't say I would take it all back, but I'm done making videos for a while."

That hasn't stopped the 18-year-old from Massapequa, N.Y., from being the media's most-sought player during camp. Wednesday, he participated in a media scrum and did a sit-down television interview before going to the studio of a local radio sports talk show.

He's enjoying his stay in Columbus for now because it's likely he won't be back for training camp in September. Milano said he is 100 percent committed to playing for Boston College this season despite speculation he would go to the Ontario Hockey League; his OHL rights are owned by the Plymouth Whalers.

With the Blue Jackets having a bevy of young forwards in the pipeline there's no reason to rush Milano. Yet he showed enough at camp to leave fans salivating about the future. He is fast, has excellent vision, and obviously is skilled with the puck.

None of those traits are a surprise to fellow 2014 draftee defenseman Ryan Collins, who was a teammate of Milano's the past two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program.

"I've played two years with him," Collins said. "I expect that I've seen it all with him but he's always finding some new move to pull off. I expect him to keep playing the same game.

"He's a playmaker, really strong on the puck, handles the puck very well and fits in well with his line."

Milano had 29 goals and 87 points in 58 games last season, tying him for the USNTDP Under-18 team scoring lead.

If there's a knock on Milano it's his 6-foot, 183-pound frame, but he said concerns about him getting knocked off the puck are unwarranted.

"I've been working on my strength," he said. "The [USNTDP] really helped. I was 160 pounds when I came in and I've gained 25 pounds.

"Going to Boston College, they've got a great program, great history. I'll be able to continue building. I think I can add 15 pounds and still maintain my speed. I'm going there to get stronger and refine my game a little bit."

He may also put his cooking skills to the test. Most NHL development camps offer group tutorials that teach the finer points of finance and nutrition. The Blue Jackets prospects this week went grocery shopping to learn how to buy healthy foods then had classes on how to prepare meals and avoid fast food.

Having billeted in Ann Arbor, Mich., during his time with the USNTDP, Milano welcomed the courses.

"I got the nutrition part but I can't cook, only popcorn and mac and cheese," Milano said. "I'm 18. Most 18-year-olds can't cook."

Next on the agenda for Milano is the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp next month in Lake Placid, N.Y. That camp will be a big part of the building of the United States team that will play in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Milano has experience in international tournaments, including a three-goal, seven-assist performance to help the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

His skill and experience make Milano a solid candidate for the WJC team. Blue Jackets fans hope it's another opportunity to see even more highlights from the dynamic young prospect.

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