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Photo Credit: RJF Productions/WHL

2021 Flames First Round Targets: Cole Sillinger

The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will take place on July 23. Following the results of the draft lottery, the Flames hold the 12th overall selection and will have a chance to add a high-end prospect to their organization.

The draft continue to approach at a fast and furious pace, so today we’re gonna look at a prospect I personally hope the Flames add to their corps of prospects – Cole Sillinger.

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Scouting report

Cole SIllinger is an absolute sniper with a great nose for the net. He does a tremendous job fooling goaltenders with his wrist shot, specifically changing the angle of the blade as he’s about to release it. (Similar to how Auston Matthews shoots off the rush, not quite that same level of lethality at this point though). He’s smart at finding open space in the offensive zone and loves to let the one-time shot go from his off side on the PP. When considering ways to score, Sillinger has high-end skill in almost all facets of the game: wrist shots, slap shots, one-timers, deflections, and rebounds – all with a level of accuracy that makes scouts drool with excitement.

His shot is easily his best attribute, but there are aspects of his game where he needs to put some work in. Sillinger is not a player that’s going to be able to walk in and play defensively at the NHL level right out of the draft. As is the case with plenty of young players they really like to focus on their offensive game to get noticed in junior hockey. Post-draft, should the Flames take him, they can help Sillinger dial in on the areas of the game they want him to improve – ideally getting a bit more speed in his stride and being able to have ideal defensive positioning knowledge as a (possible) center.

Sam McGilligan of Smaht Scouting profiled Sillinger’s defensive game like this:

He could stand to gamble less on his reads in transition and make smarter, efficient plays more often. He has shown the capacity to make these higher IQ reads so the potential for further development is there. He plays a safer game in the defensive zone. He still occasionally misreads and over commits on certain plays (especially on the penalty kill, he shouldn’t be out there at 5v4) but again, he’s shown repeatedly that he is capable of being a valuable contributor defensively so it’s possible for consistency to be developed here with more experience. Like in the offensive zone, he can position himself accordingly so that he’s an open outlet for when possession is regained. He’s also capable of discerning when to jump into a scrum and try to steal the puck. While his effort in the defensive zone isn’t as consistent as his effort in the offensive zone, there’s no denying that he understands how to be a competent defender and what his role is.

Now myself, personally, believe that Sillinger’s low-end ceiling is at minimum a third line scoring winger while his high-end ceiling could be a 30 goal top-six Forward. His shot alone is something the Flames really need to add into their lineup, as well as someone with a shoot first mentality to go along with that extra shooting skill. Sillinger is a motivated individual as well – with the possibility of the WHL even playing games in flux, Cole went down to the USHL to continue to get games in for his draft year. A really smart decision by the youngster to help aid in his further development. 

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The numbers

Everywhere Sillinger has played since he was 14-years-old he has dominated offensively:

  • 2016-17 Regina Aces U15 AA: 30gp – 43g – 34a – 77p
  • 2017-18 Okanagan HA U15 Prep: 30gp – 46g – 37a – 83p
  • 2018-19 Regina Pat Canadians U18 AAA: 39gp – 31g – 45a – 76p
  • 2019-20 Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): 48gp – 22g – 31a – 53p
  • 2020-21 Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL): 31gp – 24g – 22a – 46p

Instant point-per-game production wherever he’s gone. He’s been a natural creator and finisher of offence at every level so far – a trend which you’re most likely to see continue. (Click on tweet to see expanded pictures)

Now MacKinnon is what we say is an absolute best case scenario, but having that kind of junior production typically translates to success. I do believe Sillinger’s decision to go to the USHL has made many scouts under-rate him – especially with limited viewings. In a full normal year I would consider a player of his caliber an easy top-five selection, but with all the quality D, mixed in with the two goaltenders the Flames may be gifted a true gem down at 12th.

Here is manually tracked transitional and shot data from Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) – which clearly shows Sillinger’s shooting prowess, but also his tremendous success in getting the puck through the neutral zone and into attack position.

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Availability and fit

He is clearly projected to be available to Calgary at 12th, but could very clearly go ahead of all these projections. Should he be there I would advocate for the organization to pick Sillinger. They need someone with his ability to fill the net with pucks at a high level. There are long term questions about his ability to play center, but even if that is deemed too much for him he can turn out as a top 6 scoring winger.

Rankings from around the Interweb:

McKeen’s Hockey — 17th

Future Considerations — 13th

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The Athletic (Corey Pronman) — 18th

Dobber Prospects — 14th

TSN (Bob McKenzie) — 13th

Draft Prospects Hockey — 20th

NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters) — 10th

Recruit Scouting — 10th

EliteProspects.com — 12th

Smaht Scouting — 15th

2021 First Round Targets

Matthew Coronato | Aatu Räty | Mason McTavish | Kent Johnson | Chaz Lucius | Dylan Guenther | Jesper Wallstedt | Corson Ceulemans | Fabian Lysell | Fyodor Svechkov | Oskar Olausson | Logan Stankoven | Simon Robertsson

2021 Flames Draft Dark Horses

Janis Jérôme Moser | Josh Doan