Even though he could be considered a development camp veteran, defenseman Reece Willcox is looking forward to a new chapter in his hockey career.
The 21-year old from Surrey, British Columbia, is anxious to skate in his final season as a senior at Cornell University and, since being drafted by the Flyers in the fifth round (141st overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Willcox decided that playing in college would be the best route to take.
“I think going to college was the best decision for me. It gives me a little more time to develop. I think playing against older, stronger, faster guys has prepared me for my future.”
Since his freshman year with the Big Red, Willcox has skated in 87 games, tallying three goals and 13 assists for a total of 16 points as a stay-at-home defenseman, who plays a bulk of his minutes against the opposition's best players.
During his freshman season, he was one of six players and the only Big Red freshman to appear in all 34 games. He made an immediate impact on the club, logging impressive minutes both on the penalty kill and at even strength. While this trend continued for both his sophomore and junior seasons, he plans on making his senior season the best one yet.
“As a team we want to win the ECAC Championship first off,” said Willcox, who said that he is not completely satisfied with Cornell’s results during his tenure in upstate New York. “From a team perspective, my first three years there haven’t been great so we want to be more consistent. As a player, I want to improve every day and step up to become a leader for my team.”
Cornell posted an even 9-9-4 record in the ECAC last season to finish in the middle of the pack in the standings, but had the fourth-best goals-against (46) in the conference. The team ended their season by dropping both games of their first round meeting with defending NCAA Champion Union College in the March postseason tournament.
Although he is striving for a successful senior year, Willcox says skating at Cornell under head coach Mike Schafer has developed his strength and game tremendously.
“I think physically I’ve developed quite a bit,” added the 6’4, 205-lb Willcox. “Off the ice workouts during my three years at University has helped me grow as a person. My defensive game has also come along.”
Not only has he grown as a key prospect for the future blue line of the Flyers on the ice, Willcox says he’s also developed off of the ice while attending classes at the Ivy League school.
“I think academically, the challenges of managing a University curriculum as well as being a student athlete at the same time is pretty difficult. I think I’ve grown as a person being able to manage both of those effectively.”
Although his focus is on Cornell and he won’t be able to attend Flyers rookie, or training camp, in the Fall due to his college obligations, Willcox is just as eager to wear orange and black in the future. Likewise, the feeling is mutual and he will certainly remain close on the Flyers scouts and management radar during the 2015-16 season.