Since we started the Wednesday Wishlist, the Blackhawks have secured the 11th overall draft pick in this July’s NHL Entry Draft. So today, we’ll dive into another draft eligible prospect that would fit the needs of the Chicago Blackhawks (in the range they’ll be picking), as they look to build upon the young talent that emerged on their roster during the 2021 season.
Today’s draft prospect on my wishlist is WHL and USHL standout centerman Cole Sillinger.
Why He Fits
First and foremost, being the 11th overall pick suits Cole and his family. Would it not be fitting that Sillinger be picked by the Blackhawks with the 11th overall selection in the 2021 NHL Draft, the same spot in 1989 that his dad, Mike Sillinger, was selected by the Detroit Red Wings (and the same spot that Cole was selected in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft by the Medicine Hat Tigers)? Come on, why not continue the tradition right?
And he can wear No. 11 for the Blackhawks, too – Adam Gaudette can deal with it.
As we’ve discussed, the Blackhawks lack depth at the center position right now. Kirby Dach is going to be a good player, but his future may or may not be down the middle. Jonathan Toews, even if he comes back for the 2021-22 season, is getting older and has a ton of miles on him in his hockey career. Beyond that, Chicago brought in Henrik Borgström, signed 2020 first round pick Lukas Reichel, have Dylan Strome on an expiring deal, and have decisions to make with David Kämpf, Pius Suter, and Gaudette. But those players don’t instill a ton of confidence for the future or fear in any NHL opponent heading into next season.
At 6’0″ and 200-pounds coming out of his draft year, Sillinger has good size. He can play both at center and on the wing, and can do a little bit of everything on the ice. In his profile of Sillinger earlier this month, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler spoke with Sillinger’s offseason trainer and skills coach at PEP (Kelowna, British Columbia) Nick Quinn:
“Cole’s a beauty. He really is a great character. And I think that’s so important for players. That kid’s not going to burn out. He loves being out there,” Quinn said. “And he’s got a lot of talent. His skating is good, he’s got great hands, he’s got size. He’s a good multi-tasker who can move pucks to space at high speed. He can do it all.”
I highly recommend reading Wheeler’s full profile on Sillinger, his family history with hockey, and how that shaped him into the top-level prospect he is today.
Sillinger has a work-ethic on and off the ice that would mesh well with the Blackhawks’ new identity as a team that is going to try to out-work and out-skate opponents, rather than trying to rely on out-skilling teams. The Blackhawks can’t do that anymore, currently, but adding a player like Sillinger with his ability to create down the middle, score in multiple ways, and play with an edge, Chicago could help themselves get back to that balance in their lineup of skill, speed, and energy.
• Future Considerations: 13th
• Dobber Prospects: 14th
• TSN (Bob McKenzie): 13th
• NHL Central Scouting: 10th (North American Skaters)
• McKeen’s Hockey: 14th
• Elite Prospects: 12th
What The Experts Are Saying
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…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.
Sillinger still needs to work on his skating a bit and continue to build some strength, but his puck skills are especially intriguing. He’s one of the best pure goal scorers in this draft with an ability to score so many different ways. He can back down defenders with his puck skills and create the space he needs to make a shot. That ability to create his own chances is one of the things that separates Sillinger from other scorers in this class. There is a smoothness and confidence to his offense that makes it look so easy.
Sillinger led Sioux Falls with 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 31 games. He’s a strong skater capable of controlling the pace of the game with the puck on his stick and has good bloodlines. His father, Mike Sillinger, played 1,049 NHL games.
In his first full season in the WHL with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2019-20, Sillinger finished with 22 goals and 53 points in 48 games played, ranking fourth on the team in scoring and having played more than a dozen fewer games than the three players ahead of him. With the WHL’s delayed season in 2020-21, Sillinger played in the USHL this season with the Sioux Falls Stampede and finished the season with 24 goals and 46 points in 31 games. Sillinger led the Stampede in points, despite missing over 20 USHL games this season, and was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
If he is available to the Blackhawks with the 11th overall pick, Chicago would have a great opportunity to add to their Center depth in the prospect pipeline, with Sillinger and Lukas Reichel a 1A-1B at the top of the prospect chart.