Back in November 2020, the WHL season had to cancel the start of their season due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the risks young student-athletes faced. The USHL, however, had just begun its season, despite the entire country swimming in cases. The Regina-native Cole Sillinger, son of long-time NHLer Mike Sillinger, decided to join the Sioux Falls Stampede full-time and bring his talents South of the border, for the good of his prospective hockey career. The six-foot, 190-pound, goal-scoring center has since accumulated 25 points in 15 games with the Herd, including a whopping twelve even-strength goals.
Such a production has seen him rise in the top 20 of most draft boards, with many scouts betting on his goal-scoring touch and stickhandling to carry at higher levels. This month’s deep dive will serve to evaluate Sillinger’s potential as an NHLer, by evaluating every facet of his game.
Before we get into the analysis, please watch this video report breaking down sequences from four of Sillinger’s USHL games.
Below you will find the parts of Sillinger’s game that cannot be quantified, explained using the good old, trusty eye-test – if the eye-test means watching each shift multiple times, slowing them down, zooming in on the player for trickier details, then finally confirming more technical aspects with trusted experts.
Skating : D+
Sillinger’s skating immediately struck me as heavy, stompy at times and definitely energy-inefficient. I consulted with current skating instructor and former Toronto Marlies assistant coach Jack Han to further understand the issues with his mechanics, and Han explained quite simply: “Kid is on his heels”.
As we continued, Jack explained how Mark Stone has a similar skating stride to Sillinger, where the heel strikes the ice and holds most of the player’s weight, rather than the toes. This leads to a lot of lost energy; taking that skating stride to the NHL, understandably, takes exceptional effort level. “Stone is a work rate god”, he specified – the exception to the rule.
Han prescribes multiple reps with close support from a skating coach – if Sillinger’s stride improves, the rest of his game should follow, as he will rely less on his energy-saving behavior and become more involved in all areas.
There is a very decent hockey mind available in this draft with Sillinger – he finds teammates all over the ice, keeps his head on a swivel, understands the offensive zone very well, weaves in and out of soft ice with ease, and understands how to retain body positioning in puck battles and offensive rushes. The main detractor to his processing of the game is his lack of speed, which puts him in awkward positions on breakouts, forechecks and rushes.
Sillinger really stands out with a snarl to his game that not many forwards can boast in this draft class. He lays the body with regula