It's been almost two years since I did my first "Get Excited!" post.
It was April 12, 2010, and I wanted to focus on a little-known prospect named Cam Atkinson who was doing incredible things with Boston College. We all know Cam's story since that point- he played three years at BC, and for his second and third years he was at or near the top of the NCAA goal-scoring charts. Last March he signed with the Jackets and had a cup of coffee with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL when his college season ended. This season, he made the Jackets out of camp, and has been back and forth between Springfield and Columbus throughout the season. While with Springfield, Atkinson was the team's lone representative at the AHL All Star Game, and at one point led the league in goal-scoring. He's back with Columbus, but still sits third in that category.
This time around I want to focus on another little-known prospect, defenseman Mike Reilly. Reilly was drafted by the Jackets in the fourth round, 98th overall in the 2011 draft. He was selected out of Shattuck St.Mary's prep school in Minnesota, which has been a stopping point for a couple of guys you may have heard of- Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise.
Reilly had committed to the University of Minnesota, but rather than spending an additional year at Shattuck, he decided to join the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, a Junior "A" circuit in Canada.
The BCHL regular season has just ended, and Reilly's rookie year with Penticton was nothing short of phenomenal, both from a personal and team standpoint.Penticton was an absolute powerhouse this past season. The team set league records for most wins in a season, but the most shocking record is "The Streak". The Vees went an amazing 42 games without recording a loss. Their final regular season record was 60GP 54W-4L-0T-2OT. The team was undefeated at home.
The team was first in the league in both goals per game and goals-against per game. Their goals-for average was especially astounding, with the team scoring at a 5.57 goals per game clip. The next nearest team was at 4.08. The Vees also led the league in both powerplay and penalty kill percentage.
Of The Vees have many alumni that have gone on to be NHLers, some of the more famous of the group includes Brett Hull, Ray Ferraro, Mark Recchi, Jamie Benn, Duncan Keith and two players with Ohio ties- Ryan Johansen of the Jackets and Zac Dalpe of the Carolina Hurricanes, a former Ohio State Buckeye.
Reilly's decision to join the Vees had a lot to do with his older twin brothers, Connor and Ryan. The elder Reillys, both forwards, had also made the decision to join Penticton for this season, before starting their collegiate careers at Minnesota. The three brothers hail from Chanhassen, Minnesota.
Reilly, a 6-0', 165lb, left-shooting blueliner, was born on July 13th, 1993. Prior to the NHL draft, he was known as an offensive defenseman with concerns over his size. Those concerns are still existent, but he has time to bulk up if he is going to be an NHL defenseman.
To go along with the team success, Reilly put up a fantastic season in his own right. He finished the regular season as the eighth overall scorer in the league, and the league's highest-scoring defenseman. He finished with 24 goals, 59 assists for 83 points in 51 games played. The next highest scoring defender finished with 59 points. Reilly was also and obvious choice as a league first-team all star.
Reilly and the Vees open the playoffs with a best-of-seven series against the Chilliwack Chiefs starting on Friday. It will be very interesting to track both he and the team as they march toward a league title, and hopefully a chance to vie for the Royal Bank Cup, the Canadian Jr.A championship.
Even more interesting will be to monitor Reilly when he makes the jump to Minnesota next season. If he can translate his offensive success to the Gophers, he won't be on the standard four-year development plan. He'll be signed by the Jackets, and he'll have time to develop in the AHL. With continued success at that level, the ultimate jump won't be far behind- the Columbus blueline.