Milano’s flurry of goals gets him noticed
Fall in Columbus means Ohio State football dominates the sports landscape.
Yet in the span of a week, Blue Jackets rookie forward Sonny Milano pushed his way into the spotlight.
“Yeah, he’s fun to watch,” coach John Tortorella said.
In his first three games of a young hockey season, the 21-year-old from Long Island has scored in each game and lifted the Jackets to a 2-1 overtime win Tuesday by scoring both goals against the host Carolina Hurricanes.
When the Jackets return home Friday night to face the New York Rangers, expect to see quite a few more No. 22 jerseys in the crowd than there were for last week’s season opener, when Milano snared his first NHL goal — and the first Columbus goal of the new season.
“This has been a lot of fun. Obviously, my dream growing up has been to play in the NHL,” Milano said after Wednesday’s practice at Nationwide Arena.
“Getting a couple of goals is a great feeling. The first one was amazing. Now I just have to treat it like a business. I just have to keep playing my game, not get too high or too low.”
What a week it has been for Milano.
After spending the past two seasons in Cleveland with a few brief stints with the Jackets, Milano was a player who needed a strong training camp to solidify a spot on the opening night roster. He came strong. Milano was perhaps Columbus’ best player in camp and took advantage of Josh Anderson‘s holdout, which lasted up until last week.
By opening night, Columbus fans were ready to see what Milano could do once the big lights came on. In the rousing 5-0 win over his hometown Islanders on Friday, Milano notched his first NHL goal just over a minute into the season.
The following night, he scored Columbus’ lone goal in a lackluster 5-1 loss in Chicago.
By scoring twice Tuesday, Milano has scored all of his team’s goals in their past two games.
He said his mom has cried after each goal he has scored this week.
“They watch on TV and they are so excited,” said Milano, a first-round pick of the Jackets in 2014 who played in seven games with the Jackets the previous two seasons.
“My dad is a huge Islanders fan, so scoring against them to start the season was pretty cool.”
While it appears all Milano does is score, his all-around game is what helped him make this team. Tortorella has praised Milano’s work on both ends of the ice and determined play in the corners. Milano’s focus off the ice has also been noticed.
“The book on him was he is too risky, doesn’t understand coverages defensively,” Tortorella said. “(Now) he is so engaged with questions and is understanding how he needs to play away from the puck. That’s what is going to keep him on the ice.
“I’ve been so impressed with him, right from Day 1 of camp in him understanding and getting better at that.”
Sonny Milano, center rear, is congratulated after scoring against the Hurricanes in the third period Tuesday. Milano also scored the game-winner in overtime.