When you were in high school, do you remember learning about Bildungsroman? It was a genre of novel where a young character goes through a journey to become an adult. The primary character learns and grows from experiences along the various adventures? You probably encountered this with Holden Caulfield in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ or with Jean Louise Finch in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. I introduce my 2019 NHL version of a Bildungsroman: Sonny Milano.
Sonny Milano was a highly touted prospect during the 2014 draft and was drafted 16th overall among a number of players who have already emerged as budding stars in the NHL such as Leon Draisatitl, Dylan Larkin, David Pastrnak and William Nylander. Sonny anticipated playing at Boston College in the upcoming season after being drafted but instead signed a professional contract with the Blue Jackets. This was likely in anticipation that he did not need the time with the NCAA and was instead ready to work his way up from the OHL to the AHL and ultimately the NHL.
During the 2014-2015 season, he had a solid season in the OHL playing for the Plymouth Whalers scoring 68 points in 50 games and then moving up to the AHL where he had five points in 10 games with the Springfield Falcons. During the 2015-2016 season he showcased his skill in the AHL with 31 points in 54 regular season games and then eight points in the championship winning Cleveland Monsters. This would be a season where things were on the up, he even spent three games with the Blue Jackets scoring one assist in late March/early April.
The 2016-2017 season brought four games with the Blue Jackets (two in November early in the season and two late in April) for Milano, while spending the remainder of that year with the Cleveland Monsters scoring 47 points across 63 games. This wasn’t ideal after his taste of the NHL the previous season but that’s fine; lots of players are seen as needing an extra year in the AHL to develop.
Next comes the 2017-2018 season where most projected him to enter into the NHL and produce as a 16th overall pick would be expected to. Sonny spent 55 games scoring 22 games with the Blue Jackets this season. He started scoring points at a modest rate putting up six points in October, falling to four points in November, down to three points in December, ultimately going pointless in January and it seemed as if his development was stunted and he was not progressing as the Blue Jackets wanted. He then spent nine games with the Monsters again, scoring five points, and ultimately finished with the Blue Jackets scoring six points across his final 10 games.
He started last season in a markedly worse fashion scoring just one goal across eight games. He was sent down to the AHL again to play 27 games with the Monsters scoring 24 points. For me, this is when some alarm bells begin to ring.
At the conclusion of this season, Sonny had played 70 NHL games, scoring 15 goals and 24 points across that time frame. The more concerning piece wasn’t the point production but the continued recall to AHL after what appears to be a lack of NHL ready talent from Columbus. Rumors swirled in 2018-2019 that the team consider trading Sonny as he was clearly not ready for the Blue Jackets system and continues to play meager minutes while up with the professional team.
Enter the 2019-2020 season and through just four games, a glimpse of the promising skills that were showcased on Youtube (Sticks Tricks with Sonny Milano) have become evident in what could be one of the top 10 goals of the season. This goal was played across sports shows country wide as Sonny became the second player to pull a between the legs goal against Dallas Stars defender Esa Lindell in just eight months (the other being Connor McDavid). That one highlight reel goal was impressive given that he has just three shots on goal this season and is playing an average of eight minutes per game but in the same breathe, those stats are concerning. He’s bouncing between the third and fourth line and seeing no time on the Blue Jackets power play. Mind you this is a Columbus team that recently lost Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene and is looking for fresh infusion of young offensive talent.
Ultimately though, the goal represented a growing point to his story and a chance to really cement his spot in the lineup this season and work his way into what he can be – a top six forward on this team. I feel like this Bildungsroman is very much in flux right now as this 22 year old continues to grow and mature.