The 2021 NHL Draft is an important one for the Chicago Blackhawks. As they rebuild/retool and look to get back into the playoffs, the hope is the Hawks don’t draft as high as their pick this year; the Hawks own the 11th overall selection in this year’s draft.
As we consider who the Hawks might pick, we’ve been breaking down some names that could be on Chicago’s list. Thus far we have discussed forwards Matthew Coronado, Chaz Lucius, Mason McTavish, Aatu Raty and Brennan Othmann.
Next on our list is Cole Sillinger.
6-0 / 197
Sioux Falls (USHL)
Ranked #13 by TSN/McKenzie
Ranked #10 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #14 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #13 by CONSOLIDATED RANKING
Ranked #12 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #13 by FCHOCKEY
Ranked #16 by NEUTRAL ZONE
Ranked #15 by SPORTSNET’S
Ranked #11 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
Ranked #14 by DOBBERPROSPECTS
Ranked #20 by DRAFT PROSPECTS HOCKEY
Ranked #15 by SMAHT SCOUTING
Ranked #20 by THE PUCK AUTHORITY
From Corey Pronman (The Athletic)
#18 overall prospect
Puck Skills: Average
Hockey Sense: Average
“Sillinger went to the USHL with the WHL’s delayed start where he was one of the league’s best forwards. Sillinger is a smart player, who can make seam passes consistently and make creative plays due to his great hands and offensive IQ. He can play on the perimeter due to his vision and a great one-timer/wrist shot combo, which he gets off with velocity and accuracy. He can also play inside. He wins battles, gets to the net, is reliable defensively and doesn’t shy from playing physically. His skating is an area of concern, with a heavy stride. He likely won’t be able to drive entries at the top level. In a sentence, Sillinger projects as a top-six NHL forward, whether at center or the wing, who will bring scoring and physicality elements to a lineup.”
From Chris Peters’ Hockey Sense
#16 overall prospect
“One of the draft’s better creators, Sillinger was the USHL rookie of the year after joining the league late and scoring a whole bunch. He had 24 goals in 31 games for Sioux Falls and was supposed to join Canada for the U18s, but returned a positive test before he could join the team. It was a huge disappointment after how good he was in the USHL this year. He did more than enough to prove his footing among the elite players in this draft. Sillinger has one of the best releases in this draft, quick, accurate and deceptive. He can score from distance, but has good hands in tight as well. I think he may be the best in-stride shooter in this draft. Defensively, he’s not going to blow anyone away, nor will his skating. The hands and his ability to create space, however, is unique compared to a lot of his peers. In this particular draft class, his hand skills are a big separator for me. Sillinger will be headed back to Medicine Hat next season after choosing to come south of the border amid the WHL’s delayed season.”
Sillinger’s skating has improved this season but is still a bit of a work in progress. His first few steps are decent but his overall acceleration is just average. He will need to keep working on lengthening his stride to improve his top-end speed as well. These are adjustments that have already started and with a good skating coach is something he may be able to become above average in these areas. Sillinger has good agility and edgework. He can make quick changes in direction and get away from defenders both with and without the puck. He is also strong on the puck, with good lower body strength and balance. This helps him to protect the puck down low as well as to win battles on the boards and in front of the net. He should only get better as he gets stronger.
Sillinger is a pure sniper. He might be the best shooter in this draft class. His wrist shot is powerful and accurate. He has quick hands and is able to get the shot off quickly. Sillinger also does a good job of changing the angle on his shot, fooling goaltenders. His snapshot is also very good and features a similar quick release. Sillinger also has a knack for getting open for a one-timer, especially on the power play. His slap shot is also very good. He can even score with a good backhand. Sillinger has the hands to get deflections and pounce on rebounds in front of the net. His lateral agility and hands allow him to move laterally to open up shooting lanes.
Sillinger is a smart player who can also take on the role of playmaker. His agility and hands also help him to open passing lanes. He has the vision to find the open teammate and get them the puck. Sillinger is also strong on the boards and controls the puck in the cycle game. This gives his teammates the opportunity to get open and he can find them with the pass when they do. He loves to work the give and go, moving the puck quickly and getting open for the return pass. Sillinger is good on the forecheck, forcing defenders to move the puck quickly and sometimes creating turnovers in the offensive zone.
Sillinger also needs work in his own end of the ice. He can become too focused on the puck away from the play, losing his man and getting out of position. He also seems to take risks at times, leaving the zone early and trying to create offence. Sillinger could improve by using his size and strength to help contain in the cycle game but is not always committed to working down low in the defensive zone. These are areas where he will need some strong coaching in helping out his defence.
Projection and Comparison
Sillinger has a ton of offensive talent, however deficiencies in his skating and defensive game will need to be addressed before he is ready for the next level. He is likely to head back to the WHL next season, and working on those aspects of his game for a couple of years in the league would really help him. He may end up a winger instead of a centre at the next level as this could reduce the impact of his skating and defensive play. Sillinger is a real boom or bust prospect. The good news is that he has the offensive instincts and great shot that cannot be taught, while his deficiencies are things that can be improved. Sillinger’s game is reminiscent of Mark Schiefele, however, this is a style comparison only and not one based on skill or ability.