Left wing Sonny Milano of the United States National Team Development Program under-18 team might have the most gifted set of hands of any prospect eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.
"He probably has as much skill and puck skills as anyone I've coached in 15 years," USNTDP U-18 coach Danton Cole said. "He does some amazing things with the puck."
As a freshman at Portledge School (N.Y.) in 2011, Milano was awestruck by an NHL.com video showcasing the magical hands and creativity of then-Saint John Sea Dogs right wing Tomas Jurco. Jurco went on to be selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round (No. 35) of the 2011 draft.
"Me and my friend, Brandon Fortunato, watched Jurco do those tricks during a lunch break," Milano said. "We saw that and said let's try doing that in the lunch room at school. We started stickhandling and doing those tricks the whole year. It was a little private school so we went outside in the parking lot to do them whenever we could."
Milano got pretty good at it.
"He's got magic hands. Really skilled and gifted," NHL Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen said.
Milano was quick to note, however, that showcasing his puck magic is not something he does in the heat of battle. At least he doesn't think he does.
"I remember one move he did against the Indiana Ice in the United States Hockey League [Sept. 21], where he took the puck behind the net and flipped it over the net, over the goalie, and it landed flat for his buddy in front," Rajanen said. "That's the type of play he'll create; he's a solid first-round pick in my opinion."
Milano is No. 16 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 draft. He's one of 10 players from the USNTDP U-18 team at the NHL Scouting Combine this week.
He starred on a line with No. 12-ranked Alex Tuch and 2015 draft-eligible standout Jack Eichel and finished with 24 goals and 72 points in 50 regular-season games. He capped his season by tying for the team lead with 10 points while helping the United States win the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pound left-shot forward will attend Boston College in 2014-15.
"Our line was great; we complemented each other's game so well," Milano said. "I'm more of a skilled type of player. Tuch has size and Eichel has the speed. So we all complemented each other's game and it worked out really well. It was a great line."
NHL scouts believe Milano can become something very special this season.
"He's so dynamic, very good with the puck in traffic and in open ice and can make defensemen look silly," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He enjoys chirping at other players too. He likes to get under your skin. He'll allow the play to come to him, take a hit and chip it up before heading on a 2-on-1 in the opposite direction resulting in a goal … I've seen it happen. He certainly has the potential of becoming a complete player."
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