Reilly Walsh has yet to play his 50th game as a professional hockey player, but somehow the 22-year-old Utica Comets defenseman's journey seems longer.
He has now been part of the Devils organization for four years, drafted in the third round (81st overall) in 2017, the club's fourth selection that year followed by Nico Hischier, Jesper Boqvist and Fabian Zetterlund. Since that time, he's played three seasons of college hockey at Harvard, signed an NHL contract and lived through a pandemic.
He's now settled in nicely to his first full American Hockey League season.
"I'm getting to know the lay of the land," said the leading scorer among defensemen of the Devils affiliate, who lost their first game of the season Wednesday night after an AHL-record 13-game winning streak to start the year.
No one was unaffected by the pandemic, but Walsh's situation was unique. He was a junior at Harvard, playing on a good team with a handful of other NHL-drafted players when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, cancelling the season. Unlike most college programs, Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League scrubbed the following campaign.
In theory, Walsh could have waited out the pandemic and played his senior season right now. Though there are worse places to pass the time than Harvard, hockey-wise that would not have been the best option for a player deemed ready to turn pro. And so, when the Devils came calling, he signed. His rookie pro season took place in a closed shop at the Devils' practice facility in Newark, playing an abbreviated schedule against just a few AHL opponents