was right on the cusp of making the Islanders out of training camp this September, but was ultimately the final defenseman cut from the roster. Skating off the disappointment of not making the team for the 2011-12 home opener, Reese concentrated on improving his overall game so that he’d receive the first call-up when the Islanders needed an extra blue-liner.
That came true when he received his first recall of the season Thursday, Dec. 1.
“I wanted to make the team out of camp and that wasn’t in the cards, but I’ve worked hard down there and done everything that I could to be the guy to get called up if there is an opportunity,” said Reese, who played 27 games over five call-ups for the Islanders last season, where he recorded a career-high six points (six assists).
“I’ll give it my best effort and do all I can to stay here and help this team right the ship and get on the right path,” he said.
|Dylan Reese skates during an NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Nassau Coliseum on January 11, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images) |
In order to get back to the Island, Reese has done everything Bridgeport Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson has asked of him. From taking a cut-back role on the power play and increasing his time on the penalty kill, to playing smarter and more physical and mentoring the new prospects, Reese has worked hard. The 27-year-old said Thomspon has helped his development tremendously.
“Tommer’s (Brent Thompson) taught me a lot about the game,” Reese said. “He’s made each practice challenging and we are getting the results we want. For being in the American League, it’s a good situation right now.”
It was the Pittsburgh native’s overall play that was enough to catch management’s eye when the Islanders needed their first defensive call-up of the season. At the time of his recall, he led all Sound Tigers defensemen in scoring with two goals and 10 assists for 12 points and an even plus-minus rating.
“When the phone rings, you have to be the best player and Dylan was playing the best hockey as far as the D go,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “It was a close race between a couple guys, but (Dylan is) the guy that Brent Thompson recommended.”
Now that he’s been called up to the Islanders, Reese hopes he’ll be able to contribute in those same areas and prove to the coaching staff that he’s become a better all-around player, making it hard for them to return him back to the Sound Tigers.
“Coach Thompson made it pretty clear to me down there that (putting up points is) not what they are expecting out of me,” Reese said. “They want my game to be solid all around, especially defensively and cleaning up my own end and trying to just be a leader for the defense, for the young core that we have.”
Being a leader has been a great experience for Reese so far. The five-year pro is now a veteran in the American Hockey League who has helped mentor the Islanders slew of rookie blue liners in Bridgeport: Matt Donovan
, Aaron Ness
and Calvin de Haan
“All three of the young rookie defenseman have been really good,” Reese said. “They are all great skaters and good two-way defensemen… It has been good playing with Donno (Donovan). He can really move the puck and get himself out of trouble.”
It is good seeing them develop. I’m just trying to be a leader at that level and help those guys develop as well as get our team some wins. We are three or four games above .500, which is a nice spot to be in for a young team. - Dylan Reese
He continued, “It is good seeing them develop. I’m just trying to be a leader at that level and help those guys develop as well as get our team some wins. We are three or four games above .500 (10-7-3-1 at the time of Reese's call-up), which is a nice spot to be in for a young team.”
He concluded, “Most importantly I think the confidence for the team is there and you feel like you’re going to win every game and that’s a huge thing.”
That confidence will blend in well with the Islanders, who are in the midst of a two-game winning streak, with both wins coming on the road. It will that Reese won’t have the same nerves he may have had a few years back, because as an experienced player, he’ll make smarter decisions with the puck.
“I’ve been up and down a lot over the last two years, so the nerves aren’t there like they used to be,” Reese said. “I’m happy that we got this practice in because it’s been a couple times where I came in and went right into a game and the speed is a lot different, so it was good to get the practice in.”
He added, “Communication is a huge part of the game. I don’t anticipate that being much of an issue. Obviously the guys are coming a lot faster at this level and the forwards are better. It’s just a matter of making the play, making a solid play and being confident in your decision and you’ll be alright.”