2022 Season Preview: Cole Sillinger

Oct 25, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Cole Sillinger (34) during warmups against the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Cole Sillinger (34) during warmups against the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cole Sillinger, 6-2, 203 pounds

May 16, 2003 (19 years old)

Drafted 1st round (#12 overall), 2021 NHL Draft

Cap hit: $925k through 2023-24 (ELC)

Role: Third line center

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

I can’t imagine the Chicago Blackhawks making the Seth Jones trade again, had they known a player like Cole Sillinger would be available with their #12 overall pick last season. Rarely do picks outside of the top-10 play in the NHL at age 18, but Cole did just that – and was the only player from the entire 2021 draft class to spend his whole season in the league. He scored 16 goals and 31 points in 79 games for the Blue Jackets, but that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. He was a mature two-way presence for the team, who definitely looked like he belonged.

This is one situation where I think the COVID pandemic benefitted the Blue Jackets. I firmly believe that Cole would have been taken much higher in the draft, had he been able to play a full season in the WHL as a 17 year old. Instead, he dominated in the USHL with 24 goals and 46 points in 31 games – but in a league generally held in lower regard. He was highly impressive in his only season in the WHL and his stock was rising rapidly prior to hockey being pretty much shut down in Canada. If his upward trajectory had continued in Medicine Hat, I think he would have gone top-six or seven.

Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Cole is the kind of player every team loves to have, but hates to play against. He’s a physical, competitive player who plays equally hard on both sides of the puck. When you add in his skill and lethal shot, he oozes potential and looks the part of a dynamic two-way center in the NHL. The biggest concern in his game prior to coming into the NHL was his foot speed; but while he isn’t the quickest player on the ice, he got around well and showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time. It’s really hard to find any holes in his game, even as an 18 year old.

Three Keys to Success

  1. Consistency. Playing in this league as an 18 year old is highly impressive. Now he has a year under his belt and knows what it takes. Being consistent is the only way to prevent the dreaded sophomore slump.
  2. Sandpaper. This team lacked physicality and toughness last year – that is not going to be the case this year. I don’t want to see Cole dropping the gloves, but he was at his best when he was in the corners and competing for pucks. Now that there are guys here to back him up, he can play bigger.
  3. Faceoffs. Learn from Boone Jenner or Sean Kuraly. Getting stronger in the circle means more puck possession and more scoring opportunities. This is one area where Cole needs help.

2022-23 Expectation: Take the next step.

This will ideally be the final year for this team to “grow”. What I mean by that is, it will be okay to make the odd mistake or take the extra chances. This year should be about learning from mistakes and building confidence. By season’s end, I think he has the ability to move up the lineup and center one of the team’s top scoring lines. If he can become a more polished player, he will easily be the best two-way center on the team. I can see Cole playing in a top-six role for many years to come, if he continues to develop the way he has. Read: 2022 Season Preview: Gustav Nyquist