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2021 NHL Draft: Cole Sillinger is an offensive dynamo

He can do a little bit of everything.

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via Sioux Falls Stampede
via Sioux Falls Stampede

Cole Sillinger just seems like one of those prospects that is going to eventually blow up and appear like a steal.

I know it’s a common thing to say about an offensively talented player that has been putting up a solid rate of points, but for real, my pure gut feeling is that teams are going to regret passing up the opportunity to draft Sillinger if he makes his way out of the first 10 picks on July 23. He is certainly not perfect — he is an average to below-average skater, but as we have seen with John Tavares, Mat Barzal, and countless other talented centers, that’s a simple fix with the right organization that is focused on his development.

Sillinger switched leagues due to the WHL becoming just another junior league having to cancel a large portion of their season. The young centerman headed south below the border and played for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, still placing him in a fairly visible developmental league playing amongst other top prospects. Even there, he was able to yet again score above a point per game and led his team in scoring, despite playing 19 more games than the next highest scorer. He was absolutely the main point of offense for his team and it basically had no one else to do it for him — especially true when you consider he scored more goals than assists.

He is one to really look for in the first half of the first round and I am positively going to be clamoring for him to drop to Minnesota’s picks.

Pre-Draft Rankings

#10 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

#12 by Elite Prospects

#9 by Scott Wheeler/The Athletic

#14 by Dobber Prospects

#13 by FCHockey

What Scouts Are Saying

Sillinger’s one of the players I’m higher on than most in this draft. His biggest asset is that he’s got some of the best hands in the draft and he’s strong over pucks. So he can beat defenders one-on-one without ever getting touched and then when they do bump him, he’s able to shed past and maintain control too. Those skills also complement a wrist shot that pops off of his blade in line with the two other best shooters in the draft (Lucius and McTavish). Where Lucius’ goal-scoring ability is about his release point and his accuracy, and McTavish’s is about how hard he shoots it, Sillinger is somewhere in the middle. He’s always engaged in the play, he can outmuscle his man along the wall to win back pucks, his head is always up and identifying his options, and the skill is there. He needs to continue to get a little quicker from a standstill (he’s powerful once he gets going) but he’s a lot to handle offensively and he’s going to be a good player off of the puck because of his work ethic and his strength.

Here’s a source on Sillinger: “I’d say Sillinger is ahead of Guenther. He’s more dynamic. He can take over a game by himself. Guenther’s very good, really good, but Sillinger is scary. He’s a freak. Sillinger’s a stud.”

-Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

With one of the best shots in the draft, Sillinger is a threat to score on every shift he steps on the ice. His ability to get his shot off regardless of the puck position is impressive, whether it’s firing it from in his feet or extended out to the side, he’s dangerous. As a playmaker, he has the talent to make any pass but often refrains from making the pass to try and create his own shot. He has the skill to make the passes, there is little doubt about that. Willingness to use his teammates will go a long way to making him more dangerous all over the ice. He has some rounding out to do as a player in terms of his defensive game but the talent is there. He has improved his skating since last season, staying agile on his feet more consistently and using his edges more effectively. There is still room to grow in that regard but the improvement is a welcome sight. If he can up the effort off the puck, he has a chance to be one of the best players in the class.

-Tony Ferrari, Dobber Prospects

Sillinger’s unorthodox skating style has made him one of the most scrutinized top-level draft prospects this year. Much like fellow 2021 draft-eligible Brandt Clarke, the criticisms center on aesthetics rather than the end result. He’s an upright skater with a clunky stride; that much is true. But Sillinger’s straight-line speed is average at worst, and he is both deceptive and rapid with his directional changes in traffic, especially during zone entries. His balance is outstanding and helps him load up a hammer blow towards the net in spite of being draped by opposing pressure. If Sillinger’s skating was problematic, it didn’t impact his ability to generate a high volume of shots and torch defensemen and goalies in two premier junior circuits known for defense and goaltending.

There is a high level of finesse and skill involved when Sillinger is controlling the puck, although he can be guilty of overhandling. He’s definitely the one you want orchestrating possessions from the second the puck crosses the red line, but his shot proclivity and set plays make him just as dangerous away from the action. Sillinger uses deception during puck control and uses tactics like gear shifting, delays, look-offs, toe drags, and blade changes to open a lane, beat a defender to the inside or out, and get a goalie to commit first.

-The Draft Analyst

Would He Fit In With The Wild?

A center that can run an offense and only needs to refine some key areas of his game? Yes, please.

The Minnesota Wild need any centers and drafting for position is kind of dumb, but considering that there is no future beyond Marco Rossi and just praying for one of Marat Khusnutdinov or Alex Khovanov to pan out, it could be beneficial to get some foresight in that area of their prospect pool. Just any forward, really.

Could The Wild Get Him?

This is where I’m hesitant to be optimistic. Minnesota currently have the 21st and 25th picks in the first round this summer and Sillinger is projected to go in the top-15 and sometimes even within the first 10 picks of the draft.

I’m not one to really think trading up is beneficial, but if you can somehow package one of those picks with a second rounder or something to move into the top-15, then Sillinger is the guy that I would be alright with them targeting to do so. In the end, it might be a little risky to pass up the opportunity to bolster more areas of a prospect pool that can be considered as one of the best in the league (certainly not the best, don’t kill me). But hey, Sillinger is just so good.

A Minnesota Relation

He might have a little bit of Eric Staal’s game when he was in Minnesota, mixed with a little bit of Jason Pominville. Certainly no big names amongst the crop, but just stable guys that can certainly make a line so much better and isn’t the most mobile.

Sillinger will certainly skate better than those guys during their brief stops with the Wild, but very similar toolkits.

2021 NHL Draft Board

  1. Owen Power — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  2. Matthew Beniers — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  3. Brandt Clarke — D, HC Nove Zamky (Slovenia)
  4. Luke Hughes — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  5. Dylan Guenther — LW/RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
  6. Simon Edvinsson — D, Frolunda (SHL)
  7. William Eklund — C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
  8. Kent Johnson — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  9. Mason McTavish — C/W, Peterborough Petes/EHC Olten (OHL/Swiss)
  10. Carson Lambos — D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
  11. Aatu Raty — C, Kärpät (Liiga)
  12. Chaz Lucius — C, USNTDP Juniors (USHL), U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
  13. Cole Sillinger — C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)