Happy Monday! We’ve reached the halfway mark of our countdown with #12 FRANK “SONNY” MILANO
12th out of 55 eligible players (1537 points)
Highest placement: #4 (1 ballot)
Most common placement: #10 and #11 (16 votes each)
Birthdate: May 12, 1996
Birthplace: Massapequa, New York
Weight: 195 lbs
Position: Left Wing
Acquired: Drafted by Columbus in Round 1 of the 2014 draft (#16 overall)
After cups of coffee in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Sonny Milano finally got a chance to be a full time player in 2017-18. The season started with a bang, with 4 goals in the first three games including an OT winner at Carolina. After that, however, his production dipped and so did his ice time and eventually he was returned to Cleveland. A return in late December was interrupted by an injury that cost him most of January and February. When he returned, he scored a goal in 3 of his first 4 games. For the season, he recorded 14 goals and 8 assists in 55 games. He shot a Lars Karlsson-esque 20.3%, however, so puck luck may have been on his side. He only had 69 shots on goal, which seems low for a player with his skill set.
This summer, he competed for Team USA in the World Championships, thanks to an invite from Blue Jackets assistant GM and Team USA GM Bill Zito. He scored a goal and an assist in 8 games for the bronze medalists.
No one mistakes Sonny for a future Selke contender, and I don’t think the Blue Jackets organization expects that from him. But it’s fair to say that Torts did not trust him in the defensive zone, and this limited his minutes. Certainly that was a factor in his small role in the playoffs (only played 3 games, and only 6:45 minutes per game).
That being said, that is not the only way for Sonny to get more ice time. Thomas Vanek didn’t defend and that didn’t hurt him in Torts’ eyes. What was the difference? Vanek shot the puck much more. Sonny can get a bigger role by letting his much ballyhooed offensive skillset do the talking. Instead of overthinking the power play, just get the puck towards the net. Don’t force an extra pass on a breakaway if you’ve got a half-decent look at the net.
I predict Sonny starts the year either on the third line with Riley Nash or on the fourth line. BUT if he is on the fourth line, it will be more similar to the Hartnell/Gagner fourth line of two years ago, with Milano and someone like Anthony Duclair filling the role of skilled fourth liners who can score in bunches. In addition, he has had the summer to get stronger and has a year of experience to learn from.