Sonny Milano, the Columbus Blue Jackets' first pick (No. 16) at the 2014 NHL Draft, has opted to play with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, backing out of a commitment to Boston College.
Milano released a statement to the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday through his agent that said it was a decision he had been going over since being drafted.
"After a great deal of thought and discussion with my family, I have spoken with [Boston College] Coach [Jerry] York and informed him that I will be playing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers this season," Milano wrote. "I think that BC is the best choice for those players who wish to go to school and play hockey. Every player's path to achieving his goal of playing in the NHL is different, and the best route for some is not necessarily the best route for others. For me, the opportunity to play in the OHL is the right decision."
York told the Boston College men's hockey Twitter account Saturday that Milano will sign his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets.
"Sonny has informed me he will sign a contract with Columbus," York said. "They will dictate his path as he embarks upon his pro career."
Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch the team had no say in Milano's decision.
"We have a lot of respect for Boston College and their program, their ability to develop players," Kekalainen said. "We have the same kind of respect for Plymouth and their ability to develop players ... which is why we didn't get involved in [Milano's] decision. We left it up to the kid from the get-go."
Kekalainen did say now that Milano has opted for the OHL they could open contract talks.
"The situation has changed," Kekalainen said. "If we have a first-round draft pick who is not protecting his college eligibility, we're going to have contract talks. That's what every team does. … But it has not started yet. There's nothing on the table."
In 58 games with the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team, Milano was second on the team with 85 points and tied for third with 29 goals. He is ranked No. 4 among Blue Jackets prospects by NHL.com.
"I love the fact that Sonny has so much fun playing hockey; he's got that passion," Blue Jackets director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said. "He's not only skilled but a tireless player. He's obviously more offensive than defensive, but loves the game and leaves it all out on the ice."