COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — From YouTube sensation to first pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Sonny Milano pulls on a Columbus Blue Jackets sweater after being chosen 16th overall during the first round of the NHL hockey draft, Friday, June 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
With the 16th selection in the opening round, the Blue Jackets took Sonny Milano, an offense-minded forward who played last year for the USA Under-18 team and will attend Boston College this fall.
Milano was an Internet sensation after filming a series of trick shots and dazzling bits of puck-handling when he was 14 in an attempt to win a free pair of skates from a sportswear company. He got the skates.
"I actually never wore them; I just kept my old ones," he said. "I never used them much. I gave them to a friend of mine."
A year ago, the 6-foot, 185-pound Milano had 29 goals and 56 assists in 58 games for the USA development team.
He's envisioned as a scorer, but believes he makes his teammates and team better.
"I think I'm just a smart player with good hands who's really creative," he said. "I hope I make other players better, too. That's what I bring to the table."
The selection was announced in Philadelphia at the draft by Blue Jackets head amateur scout Ville Siren.
After the top five or 10 picks, few experts were able to gauge the rest of the draft. But Milano had an inkling that his name might end up being called by the Blue Jackets.
"I had a crazy feeling, actually," he said. "Right before they announced the pick I had a feeling and told my mom that. I guess I kind of called it."
Before introducing Siren to announce the pick, Blue Jackets director of hockey of operations John Davidson offered an invitation to fans to come to the NHL All-Star game next season at Nationwide Arena.
"C'mon over," Davidson said with a grin.
Milano is a native of Massepequa, New York. His given first name is Frank. He hopes that it won't be long until he makes a name for himself in the NHL.
"That's not up to me, that's up to the staff in Columbus," he said. "I'm just going to keep on trying to get better every day and hopefully I'll be there soon. I'm just going to keep playing my game."
It's already been a busy past couple of weeks for the Blue Jackets.
They've made a few moves, the biggest being trading forward R.J. Umberger and a draft pick (that they later recouped by dealing defenseman Nikita Nikitin) to Philadelphia for a guy who seems to fit their style of play perfectly in left wing Scott Hartnell.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen also re-signed free agent goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who will once again be the backup for Sergei Bobrovsky.
Columbus is coming off its best of its 13 seasons. The club went 43-32-7, setting franchise marks for wins and points (93), then won playoff games for the first two times while pushing Pittsburgh to six games in the first round.
Already stocked with young talent, the Blue Jackets never really benefited from the sizable talents of last year's premier free-agent signing, Nathan Horton. He missed the first half of the season after shoulder surgery and then was largely ineffective due to several injuries before missing the stretch run with an abdominal injury that required surgery. He is expected to be ready to go this fall.
Kekalainen and his scouts won't have as busy of a Saturday as they had planned.
Just before the opening round of the draft Anaheim told the Blue Jackets that it would keep its second-round pick, the No. 38 overall selection.
Instead, Columbus will get Toronto's second-round pick in 2015 to complete the trade-deadline deal which sent Marian Gaborik to the Kings, who had an option on the two picks. Gaborik and the Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Blue Jackets enter the second day of the draft — rounds two through seven, for those scoring at home — with picks 47, 63, 77, 107, 137 and 197.