MEDICINE HAT, AB — Cole Sillinger’s debut in the WHL will last a little longer after surviving the latest wave of cuts by the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Tabbies 2018 first round bantam pick is sticking around following a surreal three-goal performance over the weekend against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“I didn’t really know what to expect the first game, just had to go out and just play,” said 15-year-old Sillinger, who will miss his first week of school threaded in a Tigers uniform. “In the second game, I had a better understanding of what to expect. I played with the right line-mates, we made plays. I found the puck in the right areas and just buried it.”
Sillinger opened with a single goal Friday in Lethbridge before connecting for a pair of third period tallies Saturday in Taber. Medicine Hat finished the pre-season series with a two-game split, winning the second contest 6-3 over the ‘Canes.
Although it’s a steep jump to the WHL ranks from the bantam level even in exhibition play, Sillinger appears to blend in seemlessly, performing at a mature level well beyond his years.
“This was something I was really looking forward to for a while now,” added the Regina product. “Just a lot of preparation, you’ve got to believe you can do it.
“You have to move your feet always, make right plays, talk on the ice, it’s all that.”
WHL guidelines allow each team to hold onto their 2018 first round selection for a second week of practices and pre-season games.
Tigers assistant coach Joe Frazer says there are now 18 forwards, nine defenceman, and four goaltenders left with the team following the latest roster shave.
Not only is Sillinger the only ‘03-born player wearing the orange and black, he’s also the youngest skater by two years. Only goaltender Garin Bjorklund, who was born in the year 2002, is older by a single year.
“(Sillinger) doesn’t act 15, he’s very mature, especially in the way he goes about the game,” said Frazer. “He acts more like he’s 19-20 already. It was great to see him contribute offensively. He got to play with Henrik (Rybinski) and (Josh) Williams and he fit right in. It was a great weekend for him to get his feet wet in the Western League.”
The 5’11” centerman will join the team for a trip to Moose Jaw on Friday for his third preseason game before a rematch against the Warriors on Saturday in Irvine.
If all goes well for the young prospect, he may put on a delightful show for a few special spectators in the Mosaic Place bleachers.
“It’s a bit closer to home,” Sillinger added. “Maybe a couple family members and friends might go to that one, but I’m just really looking forward to it.”
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