January 18, 2014

Prospect Pulse: Sonny Milano

By Kirk Luedeke

Boston College commit Sonny Milano of the U.S. NTDP would be the first New York or New Jersey native picked in the first round since Kyle Palmieri nearly five years ago. (Photo by Tom Sorensen)

The Empire and Garden states have not seen a first-round pick in the NHL Entry Draft since 2009, but U.S. National Team Development Program left winger Sonny Milano (Massapequa, N.Y.) might be on his way to breaking that trend in Philadelphia this June.



Born: May 12, 1996
Shoots: L

Size: 5-foot-11, 185 pounds;

Hometown: Massapequa, N.Y.

Parents: Frank and Caroline Milano

Current team: U.S. NTDP U-18

Previous teams: Cleveland Barons
(T1 Elite Midget), Long Island Royals,
Long Island Gulls

Scouting report: Average height, but compact build with room to add strength and mass. … Fine skater with quick initial burst, extra separation gear and excellent lateral agility/edging to shake defenders in 1-on-1 coverage. Slick puckhandler who can make moves at speed and leave opponents grasping at empty air. … Attacks aggressively in the offensive zone and possesses an array of individual skills and creativity to generate scoring chances. … Sees the ice and thinks the game at an elite level. … Three-zone game a work in progress, but improving after always playing a scoring role and not being asked to backcheck or pick up defensive responsibilities.

Draft outlook: First-round candidate with top-six NHL upside.

In his own words: “I would say I’m a dynamic player. I’m offensively talented, and I’ve gotten better in the other aspects of my game, like trying to be a better defensive player and raising my compete level whenever I can.”

Favorite NHL teams: New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers
Players he tries to pattern game after: Patrick Kane, Claude Giroux

Coach’s corner: “He was a good skater before, but the added strength from his off-ice workload has made him even better. He’s improving his play on the other side of the puck; his defensive responsibilities, back-side pressure. … He’s been receptive and studious about it, watching film and applying himself.” — Danton Cole, coach, U.S. NTDP U-18 team

It was in Montreal nearly five years ago that Kyle Palmieri (Montvale, N.J.) heard his name called by the Anaheim Ducks 26th overall. Before that, you had to go back to 2008 to find a native New Yorker picked in the top 30 (Zach Bogosian of Massena, N.Y., who went third). However, with Milano’s pure offensive skills and upside, he — and NTDP teammate/fellow New York native Alex Tuch — are on track to achieve that goal in the coming months.

Milano has been flying high in the first few months of the USHL season with seven goals and 24 points in just 12 league games (he has 14 goals and 46 points in 27 total NTDP contests). He’s already produced two more points in the same league than he did a year ago with the Under-17 team over the course of a full season of 38 USHL games.

“Just coming together as a team has been the biggest difference,” Milano told New York Hockey Journal recently, when asked to contrast his experiences from 2012-13 to now. “Last year was hard. The schedule was tough, and while we played well as a team, we had to adjust to facing competition that was bigger, faster and stronger. Those experiences are now paying off for us.”

Milano’s greatest success has come away from his Long Island home. He left for the Cleveland Barons elite Midget Under-16 program two years ago, tearing up the competition to the tune of 44 goals and 87 points in just 40 games. Since then, he’s been making his impact felt with the national team. He understands that the path he has traveled has meant personal sacrifice for his family, but is one that will ultimately bring him closer to his dream of being an NHL player someday.

“It was hard to leave home, but going to Cleveland really helped me adjust for my time here in Ann Arbor,” Milano said. “I got used to that feeling of being away from my family while getting the chance to be around great players and coaches.”

Milano’s U-18 coach, Danton Cole, sees an impressive ceiling for the future Boston College forward, who switched commitments from Notre Dame in November to play for coach Jerry York’s squad next fall.

“His hands and offensive IQ are outstanding, but we saw that from him all along,” said Cole. “I think the intangible thing with him is how driven, how much of a player he wants to be, and we’ve seen that from him all year.”

N.Y./N.J. 2014 NHL Draft Prospects Top 5 for January

1. Sonny Milano, LW, U.S. NTDP (Massapequa, N.Y.), 5-foot-11, 183 pounds

2. Alex Tuch, RW, U.S. NTDP (Baldwinsville, N.Y.), 6-4, 215

Massive power forward and rising force can skate and score; has the ideal physical traits that NHL teams covet, and his overall game is coming together at the right time.

3. Tony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia (OHL) (Sewell, N.J.), 5-11, 170

High-end offensive defenseman is lighting it up in the OHL, but three-zone awareness is an area to address.

4. Ryan Hitchcock, LW, U.S. NTDP (Manhasset, N.Y.), 5-10, 170

Got off to a hot start, impressing scouts with opportunistic play and production despite a lack of size, elite skills.

5. Nathan Billitier, D, U.S. NTDP (Spencerport, N.Y.), 5-11, 181

Although undersized, his quickness and ability to move the puck puts him on the NHL draft radar.

More 2014 draft notables

Anthony Angello, C, Omaha (USHL) (Manlius, N.Y.), 6-foot-4, 190 pounds

Kevin Labanc, RW, Barrie (OHL) (Staten Island, N.Y.), 5-11, 186

Joseph Lissak, G, Taft School (HS-Conn.) (New York, N.Y.), 6-2, 203

Chad Otterman, LW, Delbarton (HS-N.J.) (Morristown, N.J.), 6-3, 192

J.J. Piccinich, RW, Youngstown (USHL) (Paramus, N.J.), 6-0, 190

Joe Wegwerth, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL) (Brewster, N.Y.), 6-3, 215