I was at the Ohio State-Minnesota game tonight, which Minnesota won 5-1, in a manner that definitely demonstrated why they are the #1 team in the country. Mike Reilly had quite the night with three assists, and would have had a goal if not for an unreal glove save by OSU's Christian Frey. Kekalainen was also in attendance, sitting about 6 rows above the student section where I was, and had to have come away pleased with Reilly's performance, although there were a few issues I found with Reilly's game. So to break down his performance I'll separate my commentary into Good/Bad/Ugly sections.
Mike Reilly is a very good skater, easily the best on Minnesota's blue line. He had one shift where he took the puck from behind Minnesota's blue line, deked out one OSU forward at mid-ice, and then toe-dragged around another at OSU's blue line to carry the puck into OSU's zone. It was impressive to say the least, and showed that Reilly can skate and stickhandle as well as most forwards (I did have a problem with how he finished this shift, and I'll note on that later). Another thing that I came away impressed with was Reilly's ability to keep his head up and make good outlet passes, several times Reilly would collect the puck behind Minnesota's net, carry it up the ice, and find the right forward crossing the neutral zone, allowing for an easy zone entry for Minnesota. His passing was also on display as he had 3 assists on the night, a career high for him. He possesses a good shot as well, and one that is quite accurate at that, which was nice to see considering how often we've heard "X player sends shot wide from the blue line" this year. One of the biggest causes for concern in Reilly's draft year was that he was very slight and small, and while he still needs to add some weight, his frame has definitely started to fill out, as he did not look out of place as a defender in terms of size. He'll never be a big guy, but if he can hit 210-215, he'll be fine in the NHL. Now onto the bad.
Mike Reilly's positioning in general is fine, especially when in the offensive zone, as he plays the puck well along the blue line, and seems to read the play well when the puck is along the boards, but when he is in his own zone, he tends to sit back a bit, and watch the play too much. He didn't do this all night, but on a few shifts I noticed that he would drift to the left dot in Minnesota's zone and just puck watch. Now this may be by design, I don't know how Minnesota's wants its players to defend in their zone, but a little too often I found Reilly puck watching a bit. Other than that he had a solid defensive night, he didn't make any horrid defensive misreads, and was generally in the right position, especially in transition. Now onto the ugly.
It's almost unfair to label any part of Reilly's game tonight as ugly, but there was one sequence where Reilly's decision was worthy of a facepalm. In the previously mentioned shift where Reilly managed to skate through OSU's team up the ice, Reilly curled around behind the OSU net and threw an errant pass right up the middle of the ice, where there was not a single player in sight, especially one in a Minnesota sweater. The play ended up giving an OSU player a wide-open breakaway which he most likely would have scored on, if not for some Herculean back-checking by Seth Ambroz, another CBJ prospect. The play was pretty bad, and even folks in the OSU student section were mumbling about how bad the play was. But other than that bad decision, Reilly played an excellent game.
So having watched Reilly in person, as long as he continues his development at Minnesota, which has been very good (8-19-27 in 33 GP leads all B1G defenders), I would say that the CBJ have a guy that will probably be a Top 4 defender, and PP QB in the NHL. Now, that's if he continues his current development trend, which there is no guarantee that he will, but like Kekalainen when he left the Schott tonight, I came away from this game smiling when thinking about what the future holds for Mike Reilly, minus the fact that his damn Gophers beat my Buckeyes tonight.