The Columbus Blue Jackets made a phenomenal pick when they selected Cole Sillinger in the 2021 National Hockey League Entry Draft. He’s currently the only player from that draft class in the NHL, and he’s the youngest player in the league as well. Overall, despite not being a legitimate Calder Memorial Trophy contender, he has had a solid rookie season considering he jumped straight from the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League. His rookie season’s greatest highlight will almost certainly be his hat trick against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.
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As expected, however, his rookie season has been far from perfect. With the highlights, there have also been many moments that have left the team wanting more out of Sillinger. At his age, there’s nothing concerning about his play this season but as he continues to develop there’s one major aspect of his game that needs to be improved. If the Blue Jackets are going to actually make a playoff push and attempt to catch the Washington Capitals, Sillinger will be a key component and they’ll need him to perform consistently.
Sillinger’s Time to Step Up
When the Blue Jackets’ number one center and captain, Boone Jenner, went down due to injury there were some questions regarding who would help bridge the gap. Although it’s only been one game so far, Sillinger certainly did just that against Vegas. His line with Max Domi and Oliver Bjorkstrand contributed to four of the team’s six goals. While that line will likely stick together for the next few games, Domi is likely on the move and as a result, Sillinger will need to be comfortable with constantly changing linemates for the remainder of the season.
Sillinger has had moments where he has shown his ability to be the top six center the Blue Jackets envision him being in the long run. He’s also had moments where he has become almost invisible on the ice and as a result, his ice time became almost non-existent. As an 18-year-old rookie, inconsistency is expected and although it can be frustrating at times, it’s not a reflection of the player. With that being said, the Blue Jackets need him to start being on the scoresheet more regularly, especially when they have major injury troubles like they have recently.
Consistency is Key
Sillinger has proven that he can perform at an NHL level, throughout the season he’s had quite a few good games and a couple of great games. The key to his development now will be bridging the gap between the great games and the bad ones, it’ll certainly be something that takes time though. As a top-six forward, he won’t be able to stay off the scoresheet entirely for five-game stretches constantly. Of course, there will be moments where points are hard to come by but he’ll need to put up points in more games than he doesn’t.
He has put up a point in 16 of his 57 games this season, three of which have been multi-point outings. While this number is respectable for his age, that means in 72% of the games he’s appeared in, he hasn’t put up a single point. Jenner, the current first-line center, has only failed to score in 45% of his games. Of course, it’s easier to put up points with high-end linemates which give Jenner an advantage since he played beside the red-hot Patrik Laine during his incredible point streak.
The hat trick on Sunday, mixed with the increased ice time, could be just what it takes to get his confidence to the next level and allow him to finish the season strong. In order to reach the playoffs this season, they’ll need every player to be at their best consistently, especially Sillinger.