COLUMBUS, Ohio - With the first day of Blue Jackets development camp in the books, one player has used his blend of semi-pro, international and collegiate experiences to showcase his ability on and off the ice.
Since his NHL Draft day in 2011, Blue Jackets prospect Mike Reilly – an extremely talented defenseman - has spent his time in a couple of places. He began with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), where he had 83 points in the 2011-12 season, including 59 assists on a team that won 42 consecutive games.
He committed to play NCAA Division I hockey in 2012-13 with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, where he contributed 14 points - three goals and 11 assists – in his freshman season.
Spending a year in the BCHL junior league helped Reilly feel more comfortable making the jump from high school to college hockey. Junior hockey also gave him a chance to evolve his game and prepared him for the next step in college.
“The guys are way bigger, stronger and older in juniors,” Reilly told BlueJackets.com. “Playing in juniors really helped me to be more confident and more comfortable on the ice.”
Reilly faced several bigger, stronger and older players again when he represented Team USA this past January at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. The confidence he gained through juniors and the skills he developed through his first college hockey season were on display, as he helped Team USA bring home the gold medal.
Over six games in the World Juniors, Reilly scored a game-winning goal and notched two assists, ending the tournament with a +4 rating. Team USA head coach Phil Housley – now an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators – often paired Reilly with 2013 top prospect Seth Jones on the blue line.
For Reilly, simply playing for Team USA in the World Junior tournament was a dream come true. The gold medal was just icing on the cake.
“It was awesome,” Reilly said. “I always dreamed about playing in that tournament for sure, just watching as a kid. It’s a big accomplishment just to be recognized on that team. It was a great experience and something I can cherish for the rest of my life.”
Reilly has since built on his international experience to further develop as a player whose next dream is to play in the NHL. Though he knows he has a few things to improve upon, he is confident that he can and will take his game to the next level.
“I need to just play my game and be confident in what I can do and my ability,” said Reilly. “I learned a lot of what it takes to get to the next level and a lot of the guys (from World Juniors) are going to be playing in the NHL really soon. I just need to get a little stronger, focus on playing my game and trust in my abilities.
“I think I can definitely do that, and I definitely think I can play.”