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Massapequa's Sonny Milano expected to be taken in first round of the NHL draft

Massapequa native Sonny Milano skates for the U.S.

Massapequa native Sonny Milano skates for the U.S. National Team Development Program. Credit: Tom Sorensen

Ice rinks seemingly have been calling Sonny Milano's name since he was 11/2, when he was mesmerized as he went to his sister's figure skating lessons.

That never has changed and it has led him to Friday night, when some National Hockey League team is expected to call his name in the first round of the draft.

Just as he was back then, the 18-year-old left winger from Massapequa will be accompanied Friday night in Philadelphia by his parents and sister. They will head a contingent of aunts, uncles and friends.

"It will probably be about 30 people or some crazy number," Milano said. Frank, his father, said the group actually will number about 60, with another 50 gathering to watch on TV at a dinner party in Massapequa.

They all want to mark a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for a young man who decided long ago to devote his life to hockey. Frank and his wife, Caroline, recall letting him go out on the ice at 18 months and later letting him go off to play for the Cleveland Barons youth team and then to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a coveted spot on the U.S. National team's under-18 squad.

He has spent the past exciting, tense week in his most comfortable surroundings, on Long Island ice. He has skated at The Rinx in Hauppauge and Dix Hills Park Skating Rink. "If you put in the work on the ice and off the ice,'' he said, "it all works out."

So far, it has earned him raves from scouts who like his speed, spunk and stickhandling. A video of him flipping a puck -- sometimes defying the laws of physics -- at the NHL Scouting Combine is an Internet sensation and is featured on Milano has committed to play for Boston College, although he is open to joining a junior team in the Ontario Hockey League if that is what the team that drafts him wants him to do.

Draft previews have him going anywhere between 16 and 20. "I do want to go high in the draft, although at the end of the day, you're still the same player," he said. "But I am competitive and I would like to go high."

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, who will choose at No. 17, this week called Milano "a skilled guy" and one of "three good prospects" from the U.S. National team.

"He is fast. He has fluidity of stride with good acceleration,'' said Dave Starman, the Long Island-based former amateur scout for the Maple Leafs and current college hockey analyst for CBS Sports Network and ESPNU. "He is a great example of what the American development model is trying to do with our next generation of players, creating guys with all-around skill. He plays with Long Island swagger in that he is really confident and he can make a play when he has to."

David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting said Milano is "dynamic" and "can make defensemen look silly."

The only negative generally mentioned about Milano is something he can't do anything about: He is only 5-11. But some observers say he makes up for that with feistiness.

In any case, Friday night will be off the charts for the kid who used to go to Islanders games with his dad -- and for the family that built a hockey room in the basement and made many sacrifices.

"It's crazy. I don't even know what to think. It's something I've never felt before," Frank Milano said. "It's amazing, and it has all paid off: Making the U.S. team, having college taken care of. But this is the ultimate."

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