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‘I’m Ready For This’: Milano Eager To Show He Belongs With Capitals



Washington Capitals

ARLINGTON, V.A. — New Washington Capitals forward Sonny Milano sits in his new stall at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, taking in his new home locker room as he prepares to play in not only his first NHL game in months, but his debut with his new club as he looks to prove that he still belongs in the Show.

As he reflects on the last few months, he admits that it was uncharted territory, as he saw a strong season with the Anaheim Ducks in 2021-22 turn into him still looking for a new home with a new campaign already underway.

“It was definitely a weird summer,” Milano said, adding, “A little weird, but it is what it is. I stayed positive, and it all worked out and I’m ready to go.”

Working in tandem with Trevor Zegras, Milano, a 16th overall pick in 2014, impressed with 14 goals and 20 assists in 66 games for the Ducks last season. However, a lackluster showing in the second half and arbitration concerns led Anaheim not to tender him a qualifying offer, and the 6-0, 194-pound forward became a UFA.

Days passed. Then weeks. Then months, and with the season starting, Milano needed a deal. He signed a professional tryout with the Calgary Flames but was released following a lackluster training camp.

As the 2022-23 season started without him, Milano and his agent held out for a contract. Washington came knocking.

“I was just ready for a deal,” Milano said. “And they were the ones that offered me a one-way and honestly, it was after the season started, so it wasn’t ideal. But it all worked out.”

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Milano inked a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Capitals in mid-October and went down to Washington’s AHL affiliate Hershey Bears to get back in the swing of playing games. He skated on the top 6 and impressed in five games with Hershey, dishing two goals and an assist. He feels like he’s back in shape and that the AHL stint helped him get back up to speed. And now, he’s ready to bring that strong play to the big club.

“It was good,” Milano said. “Definitely learned a lot. Great group of guys. Now, I’m ready for this.”

In 197 career games, Milano has 36 goals and 45 assists for 81 points. He is a crafty playmaker and moves the puck well, and he also owns a great shot and stickhandling ability. The 26-year-old needs to play with consistency and also improve in his own end, but still, there’s a lot of upside there and good qualities that will surely help the injury-riddled Capitals.

Washington is currently without Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, Connor Brown, Carl Hagelin, Beck Malenstyn and John Carlson. Six of those seven injured skaters are forwards, and four of them play top-6 minutes. That’s where Milano will get a look on Saturday.

“He’s a guy that’s proven that he can produce at the NHL level,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He had a good year last year in Anaheim offensively. And he started well down in Hershey, so we’re going to give him an opportunity.”

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Milano will skate with Dylan Strome and Marcus Johansson, two players that he said he can play well with.

“I used to play against them a bunch. I know how they play, they’re really smart players. got some speed and a lot of really good skill so definitely good,” Milano said, adding, “You got to be able to adapt with everybody. I mean I definitely like a smart center and that’s definitely what Strome brings, so it should be a good night.”

Overall, Milano knows that D.C. will give him the opportunity to show he’s still an NHL-caliber player. And given his skill set, he believes his offensive ability will be fundamental to his success with the Capitals.

“I’m just gonna try to bring a lot of energy on offense and see how it clicks,” Milano said.

Washington is happy to have him as it looks to get back on track following a rough start and injuries piling up. And in the end, the Capitals know Milano’s the type of player who can make an impact. He just has to prove it on a consistent basis.

“He’s a good player, he’s skilled, he’s fast, he loves to create when he’s got the puck,” Matt Irwin, who played with Milano in Anaheim, said. “We’re excited to have him.”