By RYAN MCCRACKEN on July 21, 2021.
Cole Sillinger may not able to hear his name called in person at Friday’s NHL Entry Draft, but his family, friends and Medicine Hat Tigers teammates have ensured he’ll get the most out of that milestone moment when it arrives.
The 18-year-old centre – ranked 10th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting – says his family has rented out The Rooftop, a local restaurant in his hometown of Regina, and will be joined by the bulk of his Tabby teammates for the experience.
“My family and my friends are going to watch the draft there and see what happens, and I’ve got some Tiger teammates coming down to support, so it’ll be awesome to see them again,” Sillinger said in a phone call with the News, adding Brett Kemp, Eric Van Impe, Nick McCarry, Noah Danielson and Corson Hopwo are all making the trip to Regina.
“It’ll be a really exciting time.”
After putting up 22 goals and 31 assists in 48 games as a Western Hockey League rookie, then adding 46 points in 31 games with the United States Hockey League’s Sioux Falls Stampede this season, the hard work is finally behind Sillinger on his lifelong journey toward the NHL draft – but that doesn’t mean the waiting game is easy.
“It’s for sure a nervous time, but because I’m confident with myself and everything I’ve done, it’s more exciting for me,” he said. “There’s nothing more I can do to help myself out – I’ve already played this year, I’ve basically done most of my interviews. It’s a nervous wait, but at the same time it’s a super exciting wait.”
Sillinger entered the WHL as the 11th selection of the 2018 bantam draft and managed to live up to the billing with a standout rookie season before opting to take his game south of the border to maximize ice time with Sioux Falls. The 6-foot, 197-pound forward says the Tigers played a notable hand in his development, from head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins, to his teammates on the ice.
“I give a lot of credit to Medicine Hat. Willie, he put me in positions and believed in me as a player, and I had success in the situations that were given to me,” said Sillinger. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates, coming into Medicine Hat as a 16-year-old, every single one of my teammates welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to be the player I am and to play with confidence. I can gladly say if I didn’t have the Medicine Hat Tigers as a big support factor for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Sillinger also managed to soak up a good deal of experience in Sioux Falls under head coach and general manager Marty Murray, who played in 261 NHL games as a centre with the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames.
“Any time you have a guy with NHL experience, you’re going to want to learn from him and kind of see his way,” said Sillinger. “They kind of pushed me in the direction that I believe I was going in.”
While an extra set of NHL eyes are always a benefit, Sillinger has never had to look far for that level of insight as the son of Mike Sillinger – who amassed 1,049 games in the NHL with 12 different teams over the course of a 17-season career. Now well on course to follow in his father’s footsteps, Sillinger says his dad offered some sage advice ahead of what’s sure to be an unforgettable whirlwind experience.
“He’s just kind of preaching to take it all in – it only happens once and it’s crazy that it’s already the week of,” said Sillinger. “Control the things you can control, that being my work ethic and my attitude. That’s kind of what I’ve had to do for this entire year now, just kind of control the things I can control.”