It’s becoming an annual NHL Draft tradition to see sons of former players take the first steps in their own careers. Cole Sillinger -- son of Mike -- is the latest.
Like his father, Sillinger is a hard-to-play against centre with an edge to his game. But unlike his father, Sillinger has a scoring touch that should make him an important top-six player for whichever NHL team selects him.
Here is everything you need to know about Cole Sillinger.
Age: 18 (May 16, 2003)
Weight: 201 pounds
Current team: Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Forging own path
Cole Sillinger’s father Mike is a veteran of more than 1,000 games who played for an NHL-record 12 teams over his 17 year career. However, Cole was only five years old when Mike retired from the NHL and so his inspiration comes less from watching his dad play and more from lessons passed down at the family home in Regina.
"I was super young when he was playing, but I do remember that he was really relied upon and I thought that was pretty impressive," Cole said in an interview with NHL.com. "Every time there was an important face-off to take or a key situation, he was usually out there. I thought that was really neat that coaches and teammates saw him as that type of a reliable player."
While Cole’s memories of his dad playing are fuzzy, his coach with the Sioux Falls Stampede sees similarities in their games.
"I played against [Mike Sillinger] and that's exactly who he was: taking big face-offs in the last minute of the game, killing a big penalty, blocking a shot, whatever it took," Marty Murray told NHL.com. "It's not surprising Cole has some of those hereditary attributes as well and that's who Cole is. When the game is on the line, whether you're up or down, he wants to be on the ice."
One key to a successful career Mike made sure to pass down to all three of his sons was to make the most of whatever role you’re given, whether that’s as a top-line scorer or a fourth-line grinder.
"I showed Cole some video and explained to him what I did to play as long as I did," Mike Sillinger said in an interview with NHL.com. "I was a third-line, fourth-line grinder, played the penalty kill, the power play... I just did what it took to be accepted with the team. You can't complain because you're playing in the best league in the world, so whatever line you're on, whatever ice time you get, you can't control it but you can enforce it.”
Nose for the net
Sillinger says he looks to two NHL captains for inspiration, Bo Horvat and John Tavares, and it’s clear how by watching him in the offensive zone. He has two weapons at his disposal -- a deceptive shot and a nose for the net -- and he uses those skills to maximize his scoring opportunities in the slot.
Sillinger’s ability to quickly adjust the angle of his blade makes it more difficult for goalies to read where his shot will go. It’s a skill he’s made extra effort to improve in recent years.
"I'd say I'm an elite scorer and I like to use my shot or my release all over the offensive zone to score goals," Sillinger said in an interview with NHL.com. "I compete and am hard to play against and I play with an edge. I'm not afraid to get into greasy areas and play an all-around game.”
Pandemic changes plans
Cole Sillinger spent the 2019-20 season playing in the WHL with the Medicine Hat Tigers and put up good numbers, scoring 53 points in 48 games. But when the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the WHL’s return, Sillinger made the switch to the Stampede to continue to develop his game ahead of the draft.
That decision paid off in a big way with Sillinger scoring 24 goals and 46 points in 31 games to lead his team in scoring and earn USHL rookie of the year honours. While he intends to return to Medicine Hat next season, the decision to move leagues allowed him to keep his momentum going ahead of the biggest moment of his career.