Entering his third year in the NHL, Ryan O’Reilly knows what it’s like to compete in the postseason. The 20-year-old played in six postseason contests against the Sharks in 2009, finishing the series with a goal. On the flip side, O’Reilly knows how it feels to miss the playoffs, as was the case in 2010. But on the eve of Opening Night, the Clinton, Ontario, native is excited to showcase the kind of team the Avalanche has become.
“We are definitely going to improve from last year, but all in all it’s too early to tell exactly how good we are going to do,” said O’Reilly. “We are just focused on doing what we can each game and taking it day by day. We have some great young kids and both our goalies are great.”
With a young roster that includes 18-year-old rookie Gabriel Landeskog
and 20-year-old Matt Duchene
, the Avs possess a coveted mix of speed, tenacity and quickness.
|"Every day you learn something new in this game. For me, personally, I'm learning to just take it day by day. When you talk to the older guys, they talk about how fast time flies by in a career. So I'm just trying to live in the moment and remind myself of how lucky I am to be playing this game for a living." (Photo courtesy of Getty Images) |
“We’re going to be a quick team and it’s just a matter of working together and finding those little areas to improve to be successful,” O’Reilly said.
O’Reilly spends his offseasons up north working out with his brother Cal O’Reilly (Nashville Predators) while enjoying other activities that help get his mind off of hockey but still keep him in shape.
“I train with my brother on the lake. We wake surf, golf and work out. (My offseason) was a lot of fun but I’m hungry to get back here and get things going.”
O’Reilly knows that staying healthy is key to the success of a team.
“All in all we’re healthier than last year and that’s huge. It keeps everyone intense and fighting for positions. It’s great to have competition to get the best out of everyone,” O’Reilly said, of the difference having a healthy team can make.
“Our off-ice training has been going really well. Guys are a lot bigger and stronger.”
In addition, he was pleased with the team’s preseason performance.
“It went really well. We played some good games where we stuck to our game plan and did those little things right.”
A year removed from postseason hockey, O’Reilly is chomping at the bit to get back into the playoffs.
“Playing in the playoffs would probably have to be the best thing. It’s like a whole new season. It’s so intense,” O’Reilly said. “Just to have a taste of that was great. It’s hard to describe.”
O’Reilly still knows he has plenty to learn both on and off the ice, and looks to the team’s veterans to help him find his way.
“Every day you learn something new in this game,” O’Reilly said. “For me, personally, I’m learning to just take it day by day. When you talk to the older guys, they talk about how fast times flies by in a career. So I’m trying to live in the moment and remind myself of how lucky I am to be playing this game for a living.”
Though his No. 1 priority is hockey, the 20-year-old finds time to let loose and enjoy other activities.
“I love all styles of music and I love trying to play music,” O’Reilly said. “I’m also a big Xbox Live and Call of Duty fan. I’m good for an hour or two of that a day.”