ARLINGTON, V.A. — When Washington Capitals forward Sonny Milano was 18 months old, his dad took him and his sister to the rink for his sister’s figure skating lessons. His sister didn’t like it and quit, but the lessons were already paid for. That’s when they put Sonny on skates.
“They let me go on the ice for a bit, and I actually fell in love with it,” Milano said. “I just kept going, and I looked like I had a lot of fun apparently. So he just kept buying me lessons.”
Those figure skating lessons changed to hockey when Milano first picked up a hockey stick and starting scoring goals before the age of two. Growing up on Long Island in Massapequa, Milano worked his way up the ranks, eventually playing with the New York Pee-Wee Rangers, with whom he won the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in 2009.
Eventually, Milano was among the top players in the U.S. National Team Development Program, putting himself on the radar as a top pick. He went to the Columbus Blue Jackets 14th overall, and though he was going to go play NCAA hockey at Boston College, he took a chance on himself and decided to sign an NHL deal and play OHL hockey instead.
It’s been an interesting road for the 26-year-old since then. He has been through ups and downs over the course of his still-young career. The rising star in Columbus fell into a pattern of healthy scratches and critiques under head coach John Tortorella, but he had also won a Calder Cup with the Cleveland Monsters. After some hardships with the Blue Jackets, he headed to the Anaheim Ducks, where he was able to build his game and find some chemistry on the top-6.
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In 66 games last season, Milano dished 14 goals and 20 assists for a career-high 34 points, and also teamed up with Trevor Zegras for the goal of the year. However, a lackluster second half of the season led Anaheim to not tender a qualifying offer, and in turn, Milano hit free agency.
Days passed. Then weeks. Then months.
Milano was still without a deal with training camp about to get started. He finally got a PTO with the Calgary Flames, but things didn;t work out, and a so-so camp led him to hit free agency again. Then, the Capitals came knocking with a one-year, one-way contract.
“It was definitely a weird summer,” Milano said.
Now up in Washington, Milano has been trying to soak in every experience so far, including playing alongside his idol in Alex Ovechkin.
“Played against him a lot, especially when i was in Columbus. It’s really cool to be his teammate,” Milano said. He got in the league when I was eight years old, so I’ve been watching him my whole life and looking up to him my whole life. It’s definitely cool to know him on a personal level.”
He has also been capitalizing on the chances he gets. He’s currently skating on the second line with Marcus Johansson and Dylan Strome and has one assist through three games with the team so far. And, while the road hasn’t been easy, he’s just happy to along for the ride.
“It’s part of the business. I can’t complain, it’s obviously a great job,” he noted. “I’m just staying very positive. It’s an opportunity right now, so I just got to take advantage of it.”
As he continues his journey in D.C., Milano is becoming more familiar with the area, spending his off days in Georgetown and exploring the momentums. But in the end, he’s just looking to make good on this second chance, and possibly turn it into something more.
“I always loved playing here on the road,” Milano noted. “I like it even better playing here. I’m on this team now.”