The Reemergence Of Sonny Milano With The Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals, Sonny Milano #15. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )
Washington Capitals, Sonny Milano #15. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images ) /

They say “it’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, but lately it’s been pretty “Sonny” in Washington D.C. The Washington Capitals seem to have a great find out of the NHL bargain bin in signing former first-rounder Sonny Milano.

While Alex Ovechkin might be grabbing the headlines out of our nation’s capital, Milano is putting together a second act for his career.

Milano was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 16th overall back in the 2014 NHL draft. He showed all signs of being a productive NHL player, but a midseason trade to the Anaheim Ducks in 2020 changed his course.

Milano had his best year in the NHL with Anaheim last season with 34 points in 66 games. Even if it was a career-best, it was rather unspectacular and the Ducks did not offer him a qualifying offer.

Sonny Milano is having a surprising showing with the Washington Capitals.

The move was strange for a number of reasons. JFresh ranked Milano just outside of the top ten in the league in a five-on-five primary assist projection.

Even if Milano replicated those numbers from last season, the rebuilding Ducks could ship him off to a contender as a cheap rental for draft capital or prospects.

Milano signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals back in October and immediately was sent to their AHL affiliate. Washington’s avalanche of injuries to key figures not only necessitated a call-up for Milano, but it landed him a spot in the top six as their second-line left wing.

His promotion didn’t stop there. The recent returns of Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, and the ensuing line shuffling, have outed him as the top-line left wing, even if that’s temporary.

In 31 games so far this season, Milano has put up seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points. His points per game of 0.63 is an NHL career-best and would translate to 51.66 points over a full 82-game schedule. For reference, last season in Anaheim he performed at 0.52 points per game.

Is his increased production due to better linemates? Out of all of Milano’s scoring, Conor Sheary and Ovechkin show up most often, sharing scoring seven times apiece.

Three of the times Milano scored alongside Ovechkin were on the power play. All but one other of Milano’s points have come at even strength. After the return of Tom Wilson, Oshie, and Backstrom, Milano is not any power play or penalty kill unit for the time being.

Is Milano’s success sustainable? A pretty good indicator of that is his shooting percentage. Currently, his shooting percentage sits at 14.9%.

That’s noticeably higher than the NHL average of 9.80% but it’s also lower than Milano’s first “almost full” season in Columbus (20.29% through 55 games in 2017-2018).

That’s great for goal-scoring, but what about his assist production? Milano has eight even strength assists in 30 games, good for 0.27 per game. Half of those are primary assists. That would put him well below JFresh’s preseason projected numbers.

Here is an interesting catch. At the time JFresh made that chart, Milano was without a team. Washington famously utilizes Ovechkin and their power play so we can’t write off how Washington’s prowess on the man advantage may have shifted those numbers just a bit.

Milano’s four power play points are an even split between primary and secondary assists.

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Milano might not be the next surprise All-Star. He’s not going to get the “look at this latecomer” treatment Michael Bunting got with the Toronto Maple Leafs last year. Milano was supposed to just be an adequate body to fill Washington’s roster holes but he’s proved his worth.

That next NHL contract shouldn’t be as hard to come by as his last.