This was a very Merry Christmas for Mike Reilly, who put all of his cards on the table in an effort to make Team USA's final roster.
It started with an impressive showing at USA Hockey's national junior team evaluation camp last summer in Lake Placid, and the confidence gained from that transferred to his freshman season at the University of Minnesota.
Reilly got comfortable and adjusted to college hockey faster than some expected, and his ice time has gradually increased as a result.
U.S. head coach Phil Housley seemingly liked Reilly right away. After all, he possesses a lot of the same skills Housley became famous for throughout his storied NHL career (disclaimer: this is in no way a comparison of the two, just so we're clear).
Reilly has tremendous foot speed, puck skills and the ever-important quality scouts look for known as a "hockey sense." He thinks the game extremely well and knows when to lead and join the rush -- making him a valuable asset, especially in a short tournament setting.
The coaching and management staff for USA Hockey agreed. When final World Junior rosters were submitted this morning in Ufa, Russia, Reilly's name was among the six defenseman registered for the United States.
Dublin native Connor Murphy got banged up in a pre-tournament game and his status was uncertain, but he's since been cleared to play and will be part of a very talented Team USA defense.
Pat Sieloff, a second-round pick of the Calgary Flames (2012) and Matt Grzelcyk were not on the final roster, but USA Hockey can add one of them before the tournament begins.
With the U.S. opening the tournament on Thursday vs. Germany (9 a.m. ET, live on the NHL Network), these are the six defensemen on the roster: Jacob Trouba, Seth Jones, Shayne Gostisbehere, Jake McCabe (captain), Mike Reilly, and Connor Murphy.
That's a diverse and, quite frankly, dynamic group of kids on the back end. Jones and Reilly are very gifted offensively and can become the "second wave" of attackers in the blink of an eye, and there are true shutdown guys like Trouba and Murphy, as well.
McCabe can do it all; there's a reason he was tabbed as Team USA's captain and his on-ice play is just part of it. Gostisbehere is a solid two-way defender, as well, and scored the overtime winner against Sweden in the pre-tournament competition.
So after a slight delay, a pending medical situation that is no longer pending and cuts made at the eleventh hour, Team USA is finally set. There's one spot left to fill as the seventh defenseman, and I suspect Grzelcyk will be the guy.
All in all, the Blue Jackets have five prospects in this year's World Junior tournament: Boone Jenner (Canada), Oscar Dansk (Sweden), Joonas Korpisalo (Finland), Lukas Sedlak (Czech Republic) and Reilly. It's setting up to be a fantastic tournament, and it all gets under way early tomorrow morning.