NEWARK, N.J. -- Reilly Walsh is expected to play one more season of college hockey before turning pro and challenging for a roster spot with the New Jersey Devils.
The 20-year-old defenseman enters his junior season at Harvard University with high expectations, including a personal goal of being voted the Hobey Baker Award winner as the top NCAA men's hockey player.
"It's important to me I help the team win a Beanpot championship," Walsh said during Devils development camp in July, referring to the annual tournament between Harvard, Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern. "But I definitely also want the Hobey Baker next year. I think I can do that with hard work and by showing the coaches that I can be that guy with the ice time and freedom to create offensively.
"I think my leadership is something that will help our team. I'm usually quiet in the locker room but trying to be a little more vocal to set the tone."
There's no doubt Walsh (5-foot-11, 181 pounds) will be given every opportunity to succeed, particularly because defenseman Adam Fox is no longer at Harvard. Fox agreed to an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers on May 2 after three seasons at the university.
"It's an opportunity for Reilly to play a little more of an expanded role and be one of the leaders on the team," Devils coach John Hynes said. "He's a very motivated, talented player. I had a discussion with him [in July] about what he intended to do this summer, and I think he understands the work he needs to put in to be a Hobey Baker-type candidate."
Walsh, selected in the third round (No. 81) of the 2017 NHL Draft, had 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 33 games and was named an ECAC Third Team All-Star last season. He made a considerable effort to work harder away from the puck, something that was evident to Devils assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald.
"This year is big because he's going to be the go-to guy on the power play; Fox isn't there anymore, so he's not in his shadows," Fitzgerald said. "He's taking on that special ice time at the end of games, end of periods, and the penalty kill. More responsibility should be rewarding for him, but he's got to remember what he needs to work on. If you forget to polish up the things you need to polish, you won't progress."
Walsh said he views this season at Harvard like his final season of high school at Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire, when he scored a career-high 69 points (30 goals, 39 assists) in 30 games in 2016-17.
"In my senior year at Proctor, I kind of just took over," he said. "I want to perfect all the stuff I've been working on and become a complete player. I want to be what Fox was for us last year and just take over the league, because I feel in order for us to have a good season as a team, I need to have a really good season."