EDINA -- Defenseman Mike Reilly knows an opportunity when he sees one. And what he has with Wild this fall could be his best opportunity yet to become an NHL regular.
When Minnesota traded defenseman Marco Scandella along with forward Jason Pominville to the Buffalo Sabres in June in exchange for a pair of forwards, it opened up a spot in the Wild's lineup that has been increasingly tough to crack in recent seasons.
In addition to Scandella, the Wild has had mainstays Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin, in addition to first-round pick Matt Dumba, occupying spots in the lineup.
That has left just one spot available for a number of different players.
But with Scandella in Buffalo, Christian Folin in Los Angeles and Nate Prosser in St. Louis, Reilly believes the time is now to prove he belongs in Minnesota full time.
"I feel like I'm going to be a full-time player for sure and the trade helped for sure," Reilly said. "Marco's a great guy, a tough guy to leave your team, but definitely opens up some room and hopefully I can get off to a good start at camp and go from there. The opportunity [for me to play] is probably the best yet in the two years I've played in the organization. I've just got to play my game and go in confident."
Reilly was a fourth-round draft pick of Columbus in 2011, and after a standout three-year career at the University of Minnesota, he chose not to sign with the Blue Jackets, becoming one of the more sought-after college free agents on the market.
He chose to stay home, signing a two-year contract with the Wild.
Consistent playing time has been tough to come by with the NHL club, however. Reilly skated in 29 games with Minnesota in 2015-16 and 17 last season. He has two goals and eight points in 46 career NHL games, but has been outstanding in Iowa of the American Hockey League, where he scored five goals among 30 points in 57 games there last season.
Despite his desire to play in the NHL, Reilly said the time in Des Moines was needed and has ultimately made him a better hockey player.
"I definitely think I needed to play in the minors a bit for sure, because those are valuable minutes you get down there and I've played every situation where in Minnesota, realistically it probably wasn't going to happen at certain times," Reilly said. "Hopefully I can slowly get into those situations with the big club this year and just roll with it."
With summer winding down and Da Beauty League wrapping up on Wednesday, Reilly said he's getting anxious to get back to the rink on a regular basis. The next competitive hockey he will play will come in training camp, as he competes with Gustav Olofsson, Nick Seeler, Carson Soucy and newcomer Kyle Quincey for two or three spots on the NHL roster.
"I'm definitely [getting] the itch to get back to camp and get going," Reilly said. "It's great in the summer to kick back a bit right from the start and then slowly get back into it. [I'm] definitely pretty pumped for camp to start here; body's feeling good and just gotta keep getting in better shape and I am."