Justin
Froese
April 17, 2021

The Arsenal: Comparing Sillinger and Stankoven

In this post, FCHockey’s Justin Froese and Hockey’s Arsenal’s Greg Revak are splitting hairs on two of the rising offensive stars in the WHL.

Medicine Hat Tigers forward Cole Sillinger, No. 19 in FCHockey’s Winter ranking versus Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers, ranked 28th. 

While Stankoven has just started his season and off strong at over a point-per-game pace, Sillinger has been playing on loan with the Sioux Fall Stampede of the USHL, laying siege to the league with his goal-scoring prowess at around 1.5 point-per-game pace. While gaudy numbers are without a doubt in the cards for these two as they continue their respectable junior careers, we look deeper at what they excel at here and now and try to project where their games will continue to grow as they take steps forward. As we go through the lion’s share of their games we will look at the skills they can leverage and extend to achieve future success and areas of their game that they need to address or ignore.

Movement

Sillinger

Lacks dynamic posture, stride extension and four-direction mobility. Seems to have issues picking up speed and carries weight off the bridge of his foot instead of toes. Propensity to be able to execute quick maneuvers by manipulating defenders and side-stepping checks but duration lacks as a whole. Picking spots is crucial for him.

Sillinger is by no means a great skater. There are a bunch of elements he will need to work hard to improve in. His shin angles (how deep he is able to push his knee forward) are troublesome and are a part of his sloppy stride returns. If I’m his skating coach, I’m looking at lacing his skates up without the top eyelet to allow him to get better depth. 

The second element that is troublesome is his posture. It’s not upright and often hunches over. As Sillinger gets stronger this should be a relatively easy fix and should help out his vision as well.

Stankoven

Gives the illusion that he never stops moving his feet. His stride length isn’t long despite full extension but full recovery allows him to win short-range races all over the ice. His knee bend looks satisfactory but his underwhelming shin angle hasn’t fully unlocked his potential to move laterally or explode with speed. Quickness is a staple of his game and he stacks his leg well but tends to straighten up in his stance a fair bit which limits dexterity. He’s currently the more efficient skater of the two because of the structural and energy edge, but he’ll have to be clever to leverage it as a strength.

Their games

Stankoven

Leverage

His presence is all about energy, utilizing blitz attacks and quickly changing angles by worming out of attached checks and carrying pucks to the middle lane. He excels at quick cuts, working off his edges to gain ice inside checks and mitigating gaps by reading stick pressure or a poor angle and can flip his toes to attack a defender’s heels. He’s able to make plays through weight shifts and have his components function independently although I would like to see his base wider to generate multidirectional dynamism, along the line of a Jesper Bratt. I would like to see him be more patient to make the best and right play instead of just move the puck quickly or when options are limited, but for a developing playmaker he can use his skill set to make passes without dusting the puck or hold for another layer of support. 

Stankoven tends to play a very bull-like game to get himself into areas to receive pucks or leverage his physical assets to turn pucks over and generate possessions but he also shows the sense of when to step back and not be a shark to chum. Patience isn’t always in his nature as he is wired to be a moth to the flame but shows the ability to time arrivals to passes and play behind defender’s backs before slipping into lanes where he can make himself an option. This will need to become an area he massages and masks as it will be his pathway to establishing offensive success at the next level.

Stankoven is slippery and cunning. He hides in areas that are awkward or spots that are difficult for defenders to pick up. In the videos below you’ll see him using the net to create space and hiding behind players to disguise himself. Once he sees the opportunity, he pounces and goes all out. These qualities are desirable when you’re a shooter like he is. Most goals are scored off the pass and quick attacks. The fact he doesn’t overhandle the puck or try too much to be a puck carrier bodes well for his assets.

Again, Stankoven is a shooter. That shot starts with his footwork that is pretty clean and allows him to get a ton of power out of his frame. His selection on when to shoot the puck will need refinement and any respectable NHL organization will quickly sort that out.

Address

Although his hands are quick and he can read off given cues to evade pressure, at times the creativity of his deceptive maneuvers and range of motion he offers can be overvalued based on his desire to play at max effort. The lacking presence of a delay game or pacing a route can force Stankoven to get caught in the trap of overhandling and his positioning of the puck can become compromised. He’s a small player who likes to play in congested areas of the ice and at times can get caught up in trying to hammer a square peg in a circular hole because options are limited. He seems to be able to read plays up ice but question some of his playmaking in tight areas and distribution on his backhand. His ability to process plays in the heat of a moment is exceptional, but rarely is he checking where options are available and pressure is coming from in advance of a touch. 

By habit, he’s a volume shooter who can threaten within the house, where he attempts to drive to generate the majority of his shots. He has a quick release and can pick corners by attacking pucks without settling but find that he shoots off balance and in opportunistic fashion more often than manufacturing lanes or using deceptive tactics to hide his release. 

Sillinger

Leverage

First off and foremost, his puck skill in tight areas is ridiculous at points and the creativity of his arsenal is quite impressive. He’s the carpenter who shows up to every job with all of his tools and building materials and doesn’t have to go back to home depot constantly for ancillary items. What is unique and interesting about him that enables success is how well he sees the ice and how he plans his approach. In support, he’s constantly above the puck, hunting for an opportunity. This bird’s eye view from Sillinger allows him to surf above pucks battles, survey opportunities from high to low and funnel down into space behind coverage, often undetected and ready to make a play on first touch with a quick catch and release play.

His aggression to attack space and model rocket approach to building speed is a quick way for him to mask the shortcomings of his skating abilities and attack downhill by timing plays and attacking defenders with manipulative maneuvers in hopes of catching them rooted down and not able to stick with him. He’s excellent at making quick, accurate passes by layering deceptive fakes and being able to hide pucks by changing angles to hit his target. He holds his stick in great spots, attached to his hip and is able to receive and move pucks via shot or pass with the same body shape which is hard for opponents to read. He gets a lot of leverage and downforce on shots and has the soft elements to place pucks in tight and from afar with one of the best releases in the class.

He doesn’t have a huge reach but is great at moving from his inside to outside edge of his skates in one sweeping motion to drag pucks close to his body and change angles to find space between defender’s triangles or to go against the grain of a goaltender’s movement.

Address

He has backing numbers but he’s also got several habits that will be death knells if he doesn’t assess them prior to moving to the next level. The absence of shoulder checks and general awareness to plan plays is evident, when in possession of the puck and when on the defensive side he doesn’t seem to pick up on a changing landscape. His hands and skill is top tier, but he doesn’t consistently find the best play available because he’s not using his vision to survey the play and find those support valves to find the best play. A bad read is better than no read.

Several times, Sillinger opted to attack in 1V scenarios instead of using more effective and available outlets, he was flying the zone to generate offense, taking runs and taking himself out of the play to make a hit and not stopping on pucks or applying a consistent level of pressure and firing volume shots from distance instead of playing chess to get into higher danger areas. The feet leave me wanting more and limit the effectiveness of his individual advances with limited space. Sillinger attacks often in forward strides and in tight areas shows limited dexterity in gaining room off the inside shoulder of defenders to beat them clean although he shows the proper patience to wait for the cue to make his move. What I saw from him was a player who was forcing a style to sell his abilities at the current level and not for what will get him to the next. 

For me, Sillinger does things that scream he is a natural centerman – middle support positioning, uses his backhand well, and uses his hands well in tight areas. A few elements of his game that do need to be refined are basic but are habits that need to be formed by daily repetition. Most notably is his lack of awareness and shoulder checks (example from 2/20 game second shift period two).

Does well to deal with situations handed, but lacks preparation an ability to think ahead.

Video

Sillinger

Clip 1- Catches puck in full stride down the weak-side wing, immediately puts the puck on his hip where he can utilize hands for pass or shot. Arcs out slightly and back into the dot lane to open up the defender while leaving the puck extended out as he leans heavily on the outside edge of his inside foot. As he pulls across his body, he changes the release point to use the defender as a screen. Good top hand detail and body shape to create down pressure and allow the puck to explode through a manufactured screen.

Clip 2- Creating space for himself he starts on his strong side wing and with the confusion of a puck going high and defenders losing their assignment on him he is able to keep his eye on the play as he moves behind the net. Coming from low to high he curls around the top of the circles where he’s unmarked and unable to put himself into a prime spot to pull the trigger on a one-touch shot.

Clip 3- Strong read inside the defensive zone to spot broken play and support puck carrier in full stride knowing he has the route on an odd man break. Shin angle on stride suggests dorsiflexion is a bit of a concern and his stride recovery is a bit sloppy despite being able to generate a respectable top-end speed, more so because of the route he’s enabled for himself. Head up the whole way, shoots with his hand out in front and finishes with his right toe at the right post on follow through.

Clip 4- Awareness to elongate passing lane and attack on an angle. Crossovers are a present but not without stated concerns in execution. Approaches the defender gapping up and takes a quick look to linemate entering on inside lane. When defender presents stick-on puck pressure, Sillinger sends a slip pass through the created angle, albeit onto the outside edge of his skate.

Clip 5- Positioned to be a benefactor of a turnover, gains separation with a couple of linear crosses before setting up the angle by driving out and back in. Changes in footwork from his inside to outside edge on his right foot could be a bit more dynamic but it allows him to pull the puck into his body and change the shot angle on the goaltender.

Clip 6- The ability to time routes are a staple of his game. Keeps his head up to the middle and hits the wide man as he angles towards the pass, following play as he gets outside his check and receives the puck back on the zone entry to create a short 2-on-1 opportunity.

Clip 7- timing his route, sees opportunity on the rush so he hits the middle lane and busts his ass to create an angle to the puck carrier and beat the back checker, keeping the 2-on-1 alive as he gets a quality look with a one-timed shot in stride.

Clip 8- Hands away from body and moves across his body with one quick motion to get the defender to cheat outside the dots. Head is in his feet which is a no-no but gets his eyes back up and able to generate a solo chance. Bit of awareness of inside pressure is needed here.

Clip 9- Playmaking is an area needed for improvement but don’t mind the detail here. Enters the zone late as a second layer and picks up a contested puck as he has a defender marking him. The puck is on his hip and eyes are up and aware of net front options developing and makes a play over the defender’s stick which is not handled by the back door option.

Clip 10- Off-puck awareness, supports puck into the corner and draws defender, takes a heads up approach as he curls and reads the shot coming, taking a stride to get inside his check and keep his stick in a position where he can tip the shot at the goalmouth.

Clip 11- Good off-puck read to explode into space on the chip play but as he gets below the dot has a high slot trailing option and a net front driver with his stick in position for a drive to the far post. Head is locked on the net and there’s limited awareness of other options, takes the path of least resistance and tries to score from a bad angle. 

Clip 12- This shows some of the inefficiencies in his skating and lack of explosiveness, leaving pucks exposed and not shoulder checking to find a support option.

Clip 13- Reads the breakout pass laterally cross ice and is able to break up a play. While he leads a broken 3-on-2 with a net driver and a high-middle option, he doesn’t really give off a hint he’s looking at anything other than shot. As he commits wide, he makes a manipulative move to get the defender turned and the goalie committed and then on the second movement catches the goalie far side with a wicked release.

Clip 14- Although successful on some plays in front of his nose or ones that present themselves, this shows an overall lack of foresight and planning. Very few shoulder checks or options. Exhibits this on a few of his playmaking attempts and on the goal where he’s not aware of oncoming pressures or situationally where he will move the puck in advance of a touch.

Stankoven

Clip 1- Collecting the puck on the breakout, Stankoven fills the middle lane with a trailer and a parallel winger. Upon zone entry, he is able to push the strong-side defender back with his speed as he drops the puck back to the trailer and then changes lanes to an outside support option. This created chaos and weakside net driver allows a wide open area for Stankoven to jump into and collect a return pass between checks and use his quick hands to finish off on his backhand while driving laterally across the top of the crease.

Clip 2- A capture of his skating ability. Stankoven’s first few steps are short but explosive. His stride recovery is quick and he’s capable of power output thanks to a dynamic stance and adequate stride extension. The lack of crossovers does limit his ability to deceive off the rush and his stance opens up, causing a loss of momentum. Limits the effectiveness of this 2-on-1 where he is too hesitant with his decision to move or hold the puck.

Clip 3- One of his signature moves. On entries, Stankoven likes to draw in wide but cut laterally across the top of the circles to gain a royal road shot attempt while defenders are in motion to create a screen. He’s a bit more erratic with his release point and mechanics despite the quickness of his release, shooting across his body in this situation as his left toe faces the corner in which he’s travelling.

Clip 4- Explosive and deceptive gestures with his upper body mask the fact that he’s not actually travelling on an angle or using crossovers through the middle of the ice. As he gains the zone, he shows his ability to move the puck to make a play-through motion but lacks that precision at high speed to connect on the pass or ensure a clean possession.

Clip 5- The ability to manipulate defenders by playing through weight shifts is a huge part of his game. Here he enters the zone and with a dynamic move through the center of the ice through a dynamic pivot, he is able to move cross-ice and even though it likely isn’t the best play available he is able to generate a shot opportunity with a net presence. Notice his ability to use his body to shield the puck and his hands away from his body and on his hip so he is prepared to make a play. 

Clip 6- Stankoven’s tenacious nature allows him to get inside of defenders hands and pickpockets with blitz attacks using his quickness. After he turns the puck over, he makes a quick read to give it to his winger and then jump back into space inside the dot line before his check can pick him up as the recipient of the pass. His weight through his feet is skewed on this shot but he is still able to get some tremendous downward pressure on the shot and uses his top hand as an effective fulcrum. 

Clip 7- His ability to skill stack is notable but even though he is able to move dynamically laterally to manipulate the defender and attack his heels, his heel up approach to moving strongside can cause problems for his balance and ability to continue driving as his weight is shifted off the ball of his feet. Uses subtle shoulder checks here but will need to rely more on support in these scenarios moving forward.

Clip 8- Attacking the first forward entering the zone, using his upper body and feet independently which locks the defender’s feet as he swings his stick through Stankoven’s path as he moves outside the check as he angles outside the dots. Solely focused on beating the check but once he does his eyes are up and ends up scoring a junior hockey goal from outside the dots.

Clip 9- Where his game will need to improve the most, but where he shows he has some feel, is how to play between pressure and time routes to beat checks. Here his linemate as F1 is able to turn the puck over behind the Royals’ net. Stankoven reads this immediately and explodes inside the opposing center to gain the ice in the slot where he is able to use his quickness to finish off the play without dusting the puck.

Clip 10- Reading the break down and taking the center lane to support the puck carrier by providing an angle to work with. Stick is presented and in a great spot to receive a pass. His ability to take the puck off his front foot and move it across his body is elite here. The mechanics of his shot and the placement yield little opportunity for the goaltender to read the play. 

Clip 11- Despite stature, he never gives up on the puck or views matchups as a detriment. Off the draw, he is in a battle for a contested puck with the opposing winger. Instead of driving right through his stick, he generates a turnover with an offensive stick lift which allows him to go behind the helpless players back and move the puck through a seam to a wide-open teammate who is driving the net.

Clip 12- Shows efficiency to win loose pucks with his quick hands and explodes out of the corner, leaving two opponents behind. Shows good hip flexibility with the 10-2 mohawk stride as he works his way to the hash marks. Not a lot of deception to his shot here but a grade-A chance created out purely by his hand. 

Clip 13- Playmaking isn’t his bread and butter but this is an elite move to make a heads-up read with a defender on his hip. Coming behind the net, he has his eyes up and sees his winger funnelling down to the slot weak side behind a defender’s turned back. As he rounds the net he makes an inside pass through the paint and lands the puck on the tape for a clean shot and primary assist.

Clip 14- A lot of the concerns I have about a delayed game and working off support is summarized with this play. Has numbers to attack with and the ability to isolate if he changes his tactics. No shoulder checks, no assessment of the scenario, plays without a plan and drives wide for a low percentage play.

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