By Monika Skrzyniarz“It’s all about winning and winning is fun. We want to win and we can go far in the playoffs and even win a championship. I’d give all up all the points for our team to be first in the league and for a championship,” – Admirals forward Cal O’Reilly.
Cal O’Reilly is like any other hockey player, trying to reach the top. His main goal is to be a great player and play in the NHL. However, he knows that in order to get to where he wants to be he needs to have success in the American Hockey League.
A playmaker ... sees the ice real well ... a puck distributor who thinks pass first, shoot second ... could be a power-play specialist at the NHL level ... NHL caliber skater ... a good depth call-up guy ... needs to improve his strength ... average defensively ... needs to improve his game away from the puck ... needs to learn to shoot more ... still young; only a second year pro ... likely to get a good look in training camp next year. - Cal O'Reilly Scouting Report
A fifth round pick by the Nashville Predators in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, O'Reilly earned a reputation as a playmaking center in the Ontario Hockey League, dishing out 81 assists during the '05-06 season. In a poll of OHL coaches he was named the Smartest Player in the Western Conference. He was second in the same poll for "best playmaker" and third for "best stickhandler."
O'Reilly started his pro career a season later and recorded 47 assists and 65 points during his rookie campaign in the AHL. That created high expectations heading in to this season. O'Reilly started to become frustrated when in mid-January he had seven goals and 32 points through 41 games of the season, including just two points in his last nine games.
He knew he wasn’t playing up to his standards and needed to figure out how to get out of the slump. But then a funny thing happened: Admirals leading scorer, Rich Peverley, got called up to Nashville. At that point, O'Reilly became a team leader. His game and offensive production took off as well.
It started when O'Reilly scored seven points over the final four games in January. And then he exploded with a seven-point weekend in the first two games of February to earn Rbk/AHL Player of the Week honors for the week ending February 3. O'Reilly finished with five goals and 24 points in 16 games during the month of February to pick up the CCM/AHL Player of the Month award.
“I just kind of played my game and it worked out that that happened and I want to keep getting better and better every month and every game that I play, so if it happens again it will be nice,” he said of his stretch in February.
O’Reilly has registered 74 points, on 15 goals and 57 assists, along with a +15 plus/minus rating so far this season, good for third in the league for scoring. He already has nine more points than last season and still has 11 games left on the schedule.
“The second half of the season I’ve gotten to play a lot better, not because of the points but because I’m contributing more to the team and stepping up my game a lot more than the first half,” he said.
The Toronto native has been holding a stick in his hand and skating around shooting a puck ever since he was three years old. His parents made him his own hockey rink in the yard so he would be able to play regardless of the weather. As he got older, O’Reilly started to play recreational hockey at near by recreational centers.
O’Reilly’s passion started by looking up to his cousin and former Admiral, Bill Bowler. Watching him play in juniors and the NHL motivated O’Reilly to get more involved with the game. This devotion and inspiration has stuck with him through all the training and preparation to become the player he is today.
“I’ve always watched him and we would go to his games. I looked up to him and that’s how I kind of got into hockey and wanted to start taking it seriously,” he said.