BOSTON -- Last summer forward Sonny Milano decided to sign with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League rather than attend Boston College.
During the USA Hockey evaluation camp to select the 2015 World Junior Championship Team this week, the 2014 Columbus Blue Jackets first-round draft pick has been united with five players that would have been his teammates this season with the Eagles, and a couple others that would’ve joined them in upcoming seasons.
So far the current and future Eagles haven’t expressed any hard feelings toward the Massapequa, N.Y., native.
“No, I mean, at first a little bit they were joking around,” Milano, 18, said Thursday after the third day of practice at Walter Brown Arena on the campus of Boston University. “But I mean obviously they’ve got to put that past them because right now we’re a team again. Maybe after they’ll give me the cold shoulder again, but not yet.”
The evaluation camp continues Friday with a practice and an exhibition game against Boston University. The 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship begins Dec. 26.
Individually, Milano’s decision to play in the OHL rather than the NCAA has proven beneficial. Although the Whalers are in last place in the West Division, Milano has proven a prolific scorer. In 20 games he had eight goals and 31 points.
“Coach puts me out there a lot on power play and stuff,” said the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Milano. “So I get a lot of opportunities. The stats are there, but obviously you want to be able to be a playoff team and get there. I’m not too happy right now, but we’ll get there I believe.”
In the long run, Milano said he believes the OHL will make him into a better pro.
“I mean obviously there’s ups and downs in college and the OHL. I think they’re both great ways,” he said. “And I just think the OHL is a little bit better for me. Maybe a little bit more ice time, more games. I’m just trying to focus on hockey and start becoming a pro a little bit more. So I think that was the plus side for me. I think that’s kind of why I went there.”
Milano spent the past two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program. In 63 games he had 24 goals and 61 points. Another step on his development path toward playing in the NHL would be facing the best players in the world under 20 years of age if he can make the U.S. roster that will compete in Toronto and Montreal.
“It would mean everything. I mean every time you get to play for USA, representing your country, representing everything, it’s a great feeling. I’ve been working hard and hopefully I can make this team,” he said.
Injuries have forced the Whalers to juggle their lines and it has been difficult for Milano to have steady linemates. With the U.S. he’s found some consistency because he’s playing with the same two players he played with at camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in the summer. At practice Thursday, Milano was again on left wing alongside Michigan center Dylan Larkin, a 2014 Detroit Red Wings first-round pick, and Minnesota right wing Hudson Fasching, a Los Angeles Kings fourth-round pick in 2013 whose rights now belong to the Buffalo Sabres.
Coach Mark Osiecki praised that line’s high skill level and called it “something to build on” if all three players make the team and stick together when competition begins.
Milano, who fashions himself a big-time point producer, thinks that line is the right fit for him.
“[Larkin’s] real strong on the puck. I think that’s one of his best things. Real competitive, real strong and real fast. So he’s definitely a good center for me,” Milano said.