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Sonny Milano will not play for Boston College, clearing way to join OHL’s Plymouth Whalers; how to talk about it

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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Milano went No. 16 overall to Columbus in June (Matt Slocum, The Associated Press)

Any time that a talent such as Sonny Milano forsakes college hockey, it will raise some emotions among the forsook. The Boston College Eagles got out in front of some bad news for their program on Saturday by stating that the No. 16 overall choice in the NHL draft will sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets imminently, which likely dictates that Milano will head, as long rumoured, to the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers (and team up with Carolina Hurricanes-drafted goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, with whom he shares an agent).

Agree to disagree, but this should not be a staging ground for the CHL vs. NCAA war, so-called, although some will try to frame it as such (former BC star John Gaudreau tweeted that it was a "stupid hockey move" and subsequently deleted the tweet). Firstly, it's about the attendant rush for a first-round NHL pick to get signed and be in position to get the clock running on the countdown toward free agency some day. What if, as Todd Cordell notes, Milano "(s)truggles in college or (suffers) a serious injury?"

It is comes back on the Blue Jackets for muddling the message by trying to maintain plausible deniability about influencing their prized prospect's decision. The club is on the record saying "contract talks wouldn't begin until Milano made his decision." Yet it appears those talks and that firm decision were happening more or less concurrently.

From Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonCHN):

Update: Milano issued a statement that read, in part:

"Perhaps I should have acknowledged my growing indecision when asked about my plans, but it was difficult to explain to those who were asking when I did not even know myself what I wanted to do. After a great deal of thought and discussion with my family, I have spoken with Coach [Jerry] York and informed him that I will be playing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers this season.

"I think that BC is the best choice for those players who wish to go to school and play hockey. Every player’s path to achieving his goal of playing in the NHL is different, and the best route for some is not necessarily the best route for others. For me, the opportunity to play in the OHL is the right decision.

"If I have disappointed anyone, particularly the great people I have met at BC, it was certainly not my intention to do so, and for that I am sorry. I hope that BC and those involved with its hockey program understand my decision.”

Point being, Milano doesn't rate criticism for picking this option. Major junior hockey also doesn't rate direct criticism since it allows signed NHL draft picks to play. It just happens to be more aligned with the priorities of the hockey industry, such as those are.

It just bears pointing this out to those who scream "bad decision!" when a player forgoes a college commitment or a draft pick ends up in the CHL. Who is to judge someone for picking the option that he and his support group decided it could live with, just because it did not align with the pro-NCAA agenda? (That goes both ways, obviously.)

Boston College is surely a little set back by losing Milano. The tone of the school's release was measured and classy.

The NCAA's amateurism charade is a culprit, too. College hockey is a fantastic product that certainly doesn't need any validation from a junior hockey chronicler. Unfortunately for BC, the NCAA's rules gum up the work.

Whether it's Boston College or Plymouth, or any random NCAA or CHL team, no one is really in position to say whether Milano is making the right call. That will only be known in due time. Meantime, since the 18-year-old Milano is probably more suited to the OHL than the AHL, the Whalers just became a much better hockey team on paper.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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