“I’m soaking it in right now, it’s surreal,” Milano said after being selected by Columbus. “I have worked my whole life for this, and to finally get it is unbelievable.”
“You don’t really know what teams are going to take you, so you are just sitting, sweating and stuff. It’s a big relief. I was sitting there really nervous. I thought my Columbus interview went pretty well, and I thought they were interested more than other teams.”
As if being drafted in the first round wasn’t enough of an accomplishment, Milano will suit up next fall for the school he has wanted to play for since childhood, Boston College.
“BC has been my dream school for my whole life,” he said. “It’s kind of local. They’re always a top school, and I fell in love with them when I was a kid.”
“(Right now) I’m focusing on the summer and working hard,” he said. “They have a lot of guys leaving this year. Hopefully I’ll be an impact player and we’ll win right away.”
With the so-called “best line in college hockey” no longer at BC, one would think there would be pressure for a high level recruit like Milano. He doesn’t seem too worried about that, though.
“I’m not too sure (I feel pressure from that),” he said. “You just want to go in there, get along with the guys and win right away.”
The success of Gaudreau and other skilled players at Boston College is actually an encouragement for many players to choose BC. Having Jerry York as the coach doesn’t hurt either.
“Seeing skilled players like Johnny Gaudreau have success kind of gives you hope that I can have success (too),” Milano said. “They’re always a top team, contending for a national championship and Jerry York is a great coach.”
The Massapequa, NY native lit it up with the U.S. NTDP U18 squad last season, scoring 86 points (29 goals, 57 assists) in 58 games. Milano also competed for Team USA at the 2014 U18 World Championship and did not disappoint, scoring 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in seven games. His rank with NHL Central Scouting didn’t change much this season as he remained a mid-first round selection throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
“He was very high on our list,” Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He’s a very skilled and creative forward. All of our scouts were very high on him.”
Milano put up a lot of points this past season with the U18 squad, but that was also a solid progression from his 47-point season in 2012-13. He is known for his offensive abilities and they’re continuing to improve.
“I can create plays and make the players around me better,” Milano said. “I have good hands, feet, can put points on the board and (I) work hard.”
Milano may not need the whole four years at the NCAA level, but Columbus will go over his options with him. What’s nice about college over Canadian major juniors, at least for NHL general managers, is that a team has four years to let a player develop, not two.
“With all the young players, we’re going to be patient and see how their development goes,” Kekalainen said. “There’s a lot of growing up to do and a lot of hard work ahead of him. He’s committed to Boston College, and we’ll see what happens.”
How long it takes Milano to develop remains to be seen, but when a player is in a good program, they usually develop. It won’t hurt that U18 teammate Alex Tuch, who was drafted 18th overall by the Minnesota Wild, will join Milano next season at the Conte Forum.
Boston Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald could join both Tuch and Milano on the first line, and maybe in three years they’ll allow BC to once again make a claim to having the “best line in college hockey.”
Follow Rich Murray on Twitter via @Richie_Murray