Next up in The Win Column’s 2021 NHL Entry Draft coverage is Cole Sillinger. Using TWC’s consolidated top 100 prospect rankings, Sillinger slots in at about 12th overall. This might just be a player available when it’s the Calgary Flames’ turn to make their first round selection.
Who is Cole Sillinger?
Cole Sillinger was born May 16, 2003 in Columbus Ohio, but has played his whole career in Canada before this season. He is the son of Mike Sillinger, who played more than one thousand NHL games with 12 diffent teams. Like his father, Sillinger is a centre, who played previously in the WHL for the Medicine Hat Tigers, but played the 2020-2021 in the USHL for the Sioux Falls Stampede.
He was supposed to play for Team Canada at the Under-18 World Championships a few weeks ago, but a bizarre COVID-19 related saga kept him from playing in the tournament. Despite being vaccinated, Sillinger tested positive before the tournament. Thinking it was a false positive, he tested two more times which came back negative, but a fourth test revealed another positive result, which ultimately kept him from the tournament.
Sillinger is a left handed shot, but a sturdy one at that. He stands at 6’0, and weighs in at 200 pounds.
Cole Sillinger’s on-ice production
One of the challenges of evaluating Sillinger, along with most of this class of prospects, is that we haven’t seen him much at the major junior level. Due to COVID-19, Sillinger was forced to step a level down after his first full season in the WHL, to play in the USHL. Regardless of the league though, Sillinger scores at every level.
|2018-19||D-1||SMAAAHL||Regina Pat Canadians U-18 AAA||39||31||45||76||N/A|
|2019-20||D-2||WHL||Medicine Hat Tigers||48||22||31||53||27.3|
|2020-21||D-3||USHL||Sioux Falls Stampede||31||24||22||46||32.8|
What is particularly impressive was Sillinger’s production as just a 17-year-old in the WHL. While we don’t know what he might have looked like in his second full season, scoring more than a point per game at that age is impressive.
In Sioux Falls, he had some good company as well:
Cole Sillinger’s strengths
The two traits that come up with Sillinger are his skills without the puck, and his ability to score.
This clip is a nice example of both, as he makes a great defensive play to read the pass, then quickly takes the puck the other way and buries it.
Here is an example of the puck skills that he possesses.
But Sillinger’s bread and butter is his big time shot. He uses a quick release that seems to get on goaltenders quickly, and it helps him score from low angles and from distance.
Flames fans might not want to hear this, but this shot looks a little Sean Monahan-esque, with the limited wind up and snappy release. Or, I should say it looks like how Monahan’s shot used to look before his shooting percentages fell off the face of the earth.
Back to Sillinger though, the guy can really rip the puck. As far as fit with the Flames, Calgary needs anyone who can score, and especially someone who can score from distance. Elias Lindholm is the Flames’ only real threat from the top of the circles, and it makes life difficult, especially in situations like the power play when the Flames need to get close to the net front to score. A shot like Sillinger’s would help space things out.
Cole Sillinger’s areas of improvement
The one true criticism you hear of Sillinger is that he is not a top-end skater. Now, that is not to say he is a bad skater, nobody going in the first round of the draft in this era is really a weak skater, but just that it might not be on par with the rest of his puck skills.
In fairness, he is still pretty young, and along with the rest of his competitors he likely had very little, if any opportunities to train in the summer. We forget that these players have missed some really key years and chunks of their development, and something like skating is a skill that is developed on the ice and in the gym. He might not be the best skater in the draft, but he still has quite a bit of runway to improve that skillset.
Fit with the Flames
This is an interesting question. When assessing the Flames forwards, I really see them as having two needs. On one hand, they need someone who can score from different areas of the offensive zone. They need some of those “easy goals” that come when guys can score from distance. Without them, it makes generating consistent offence a real challenge, and hurts the power play.
The second area is speed. I understand that there is a difference between playing fast and actually being a fast skater, but there is nothing like individual speed. Calgary needs a few burners in their forward group to turn up the pace on opposing teams.
Unfortunately, while Sillinger would help solve one of these challenges, he might not help with the other. He can score, and his shot is an asset, but if the Flames are looking to make their group faster, Sillinger probably isn’t the answer.
By all accounts, his intangibles are great, and his hockey sense will make him a favourite of Brad Treliving and the rest of the Flames’ brass. He would follow behind a guy like Connor Zary who is a similar high-end scorer without being a speed demon. But there is something to be said for creating a diverse prospect pool, and a lot of fans would agree that Calgary needs to get faster and increase their chances of generating offence, both in a hurry.
Most draft projections have Sillinger going somewhere in the 12-14 range, so he will very likely be in play for the Flames. He is a high-end goal scorer with an elite shot and impressive ability to play away from the puck. While he isn’t the fastest player out there, he gets to the net in different ways, and has produced at every level he has played at.
Sillinger seems to have a lot of fans in the draft community, so don’t be surprised to see his name go earlier than expected.
Risk: 2/5 – His puck skills and game sense mean that his floor is pretty high.
Reward 3/5 – It is hard to be a super-star in the league without the top end wheels. That limits his upside a little bit.
Projection: High-end second liner with first line potential.
The Win Column 2021 NHL Draft Profiles:
Featured image created with Venngage.