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O'Reilly fostering attention in this year's draft

by Adam Kimelman
Some players might be intimidated by large crowds -- whether it's crowds of opposing players focused on your every move, or crowds of scouts chronicling every stride down the ice.

Large groups of people don't bother Erie Otters center Ryan O'Reilly, though. In fact, he's so used to being part of big crowds that he doesn't even notice them anymore.

That's what happens when you grow up in a house more crowded than a mall on Christmas Eve.

O'Reilly's parents were volunteers with the Children's Aid Society of Ontario and served as foster parents. Sometimes there were as many as eight children bouncing around the O'Reilly home -- Ryan, his brother, two sisters and four foster children.

"I don't know how they do it, but it's amazing," O'Reilly told regarding his parents. "It's one of the best things that's ever happened (to me). … Doing the fostering and stuff like that, being a part of that, it's opened my world to more important things."

Like any kid growing up, however, O'Reilly did need some quiet time. He found his escape on the ice.

"It was a big thing that I could do (alone)," he said. "It was a lot better for me to have that."

And he's excelled at hockey. After a strong midget career, Erie made O'Reilly the first choice of the 2007 OHL draft. While he won't go that high in the 2009 Entry Draft, O'Reilly is projected as a second-round pick when the teams meet in Montreal for the June 26-27 selection process -- NHL Central Scouting tabbed him the No. 39 North American skater in its final ranking.

O'Reilly followed a solid 52-point rookie season in 2007-08 with 50 assists and 66 points in 68 games as the Otters finished seventh in the OHL Western Conference and made the playoffs for the first time since 2005. He placed second on the team in scoring with 5 points (all assists) as Erie lost to London in five games in the first round.

As much as he contributed offensively, O'Reilly is an all-round player who is renowned for his defense and penalty killing. OHL Western Conference coaches voted O'Reilly the conference's best penalty killer, second-best on faceoffs and third-best playmaker. He also served as an assistant captain, and likely will become captain at some point in the future.

"He's a special player," Otters GM Sherry Bassin told "He's nowhere near the level he's going to be. He really accepts the challenge of getting better. He really believes in the team winning, not himself. I haven't had a kid that's so focused on preparation and just working on getting better. He's got such a work ethic you almost have to pull him away. We always talk about the will to prepare -- well, he's got a phenomenal will to prepare. His ability with the puck and his vision … his skating will get so much better because he'll find a way to get better. In drills he forces himself to do things just to get an advantage."

"He's very responsible defensively," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told "He backchecks hard and he's very good at identifying his check in his own end. That's probably something that he's had to do because (Erie) struggled for a couple years. … He's very good at the defensive end of the game, smarts-wise, at identifying people to pick up in his own end."

NHL Scouting Combine GearScouts also like O'Reilly's puck-handling and see a player with a strong shot. Shot accuracy is an issue, as well as his skating, but those things shouldn't make a team think twice about selecting him.

O'Reilly further raised his stock at the World Under-18 Championships with 5 points and a plus-3 rating in six games for Canada, which finished fourth.

After a strong stint at the 2009 Scouting Combine -- his 18 reps at 150 pounds on the bench press tied for the most among the 94 players who tested -- next is the draft. He'll get some advice from older brother Cal, a 2005 fifth-round pick of the Nashville Predators who had 5 points in an 11-game NHL call-up.

"He's been through this before, so it makes it a lot easier for me," said O'Reilly. "I talk to him all the time about upcoming events. He tells me not to worry about it. When it comes around, you just have to enjoy it and do the best you can."

"The people that pass him up in the draft at the appropriate spot will regret they passed him up," said Bassin. "We've just seen the tip of the iceberg on this guy."

Contact Adam Kimelman at

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