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Cole Sillinger is back

Jan 6, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Cole Sillinger (4) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Minnesota Wild in the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Two seasons ago, Cole Sillinger quietly put up the fourth-best rookie season in goals in Columbus Blue Jackets history (tied with Boone Jenner and Kent Johnson). His points effort of 31 was the eighth-best in franchise history. Then it all fell out from underneath him.

From the start of the 2022-23 season and into this season, for a total of 83 games played, Sillinger scored only 3 goals. He looked lost and in over his head at times. His play on the ice had many scratching their heads and wondering if he was heading towards being a bust. He even spent 11 games in the AHL.

But I’m here to tell you that Cole Sillinger is back.

Since breaking his goal-scoring drought on November 22nd against Chicago, he’s 7-4-11 in 20 games, including a hat trick. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they don’t have to. Sillinger’s play away from the puck has made a giant leap. He’s been noticeable defensively, has been showing lots of confidence, and has been gradually getting better in the faceoff dot.

On Monday against the Canucks, Sillinger was trusted with the opening faceoff in overtime against veteran J.T. Miller. He won the faceoff.

His two-way play has been showing up on the 5v5 stats sheet as well. Since that November 22nd game, only one Blue Jacket has an expected goals for percentage above 50 – Cole Sillinger. He also leads the team in unblocked shot attempt percentage in that same time frame. In simpler terms, the Blue Jackets are producing more offense than their opponents when Sillinger is on the ice – that’s a big deal on this team. He’s been playing higher in the lineup while facing tougher competition too.

So what’s next for Sillinger? His persistent improvement this season is a great sign going forward. He still has a lot to learn, and there’s room for improvement, but he’s back on track to being projected as a bona fide two-way, middle-six center in the NHL. Combine him with Adam Fantilli and Dmitri Voronkov, and with Luca Del Bel Belluz developing well in Cleveland, and all of a sudden the center position looks like a strength long-term.