came into training camp looking to move up on the depth chart. After surviving the first round of assignments to Bridgeport, his chances of making the team are looking better each day.
“I thought I fit in further up the depth chart than I ever have in this organization with the numbers,” Reese said. “I knew the young guys were going to come in and be good, but they still have a lot of development and the coaching staff would want them to play a lot of minutes. But I think the experience I had here over the last two years was a big factor in being in the position I am in right now.”
|Dylan Reese looks on during a stoppage in play against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 9, 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images) |
That position places Reese within the top eight defensemen. Where exactly Capuano sees 27-year-old Reese is unclear, as he said he’d be happy with 12 forwards and 8 defensemen or a 13-and-7 combo for Saturday’s home opener against Florida. However, Capuano likes what he’s seen from Reese at camp and last year on Long Island.
“He played well for us last year,” Capuano said. “He brings his ability and plays the way that we want to play the game. He joins the rush. He sees the ice well. He had a great game in Boston with a couple of goals, but he understands the system right now and he’s a little bit older. The young kids need to develop down there (in Bridgeport), so it’s a perfect situation for Dylan right now.”
Last season, the blue-liner received five call-ups, playing in a career-high 27 NHL games and recorded a career-high six assists and six points. On August 9, he signed a one-year contract. Entering his fifth year pro, making the Islanders out of camp would be a dream come true.
“It would mean a lot,” Reese said. “I’ve been working at it my whole life. Not a lot of guys, at my age at least, make a team at 27. I’ve stuck with it, worked hard and this organization has been great to me. They gave me the opportunity that I didn’t get anywhere else. They’ve shown confidence in me and I’ve just kept trying to do what they’ve asked and worked on my game.”
He added, “I still feel like I’m improving. That’s the best part. Every practice that goes by, I feel more comfortable and I feel like I’m learning. My game is still expanding. To be here on opening night would mean a lot to me.”
To this point, Reese has put in the effort. He joined the Islanders on March 1, 2010 by way of a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets and after just one game with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, he received his first-ever call-up to the National Hockey League. That season, he stuck on the Island and played in the team’s remaining 19 games of the 2009-10 season.
After putting up a career-high in assists and points in 2010-11, Reese was more determined to make the Islanders out of camp. In his first of three preseason games, he scored two even strength goals. Not only did that game get him noticed by the coaching staff, he said, “It set the tone for camp and gave me some confidence going in.”
|Dylan Reese skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum on April 8, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) |
Over the summer, Reese continued to work on his game to make sure at the start of camp that he would be at the level he needed to be to make a lasting impact.
“Coming out of college four years ago, the knock on me was I think was a small defenseman with speed and quickness,” said Reese, who now stands at 6’1” and 201 pounds. “I’ve just kept trying to work on that and I’ve turned maybe a negative part of my game into a more positive part.”
He added, “I’ve tried to work on my skating with my skating coach at home and just work on my strength a bit. Overall, I think it’s about developing your whole game, being comfortable, knowing you can make the play and having the confidence to do it.”
Reese knows that making the Opening Night roster isn’t a guarantee, but right now he’s taking everything a day at time.
“I’m not taking anything for granted,” Reese said. “I learned long ago that as long as I’m playing well and doing what I can do, the rest will take care of itself. Some things are out of your hands. As long as you are doing all you can and you’re confident and happy with the way things are going and they way you’re playing, you shouldn’t feel anxious.”
Expect a roster decision to be handed down within the next 22 hours.