All three major junior leagues are now in pre-season play, so new reputations are already being forged on the ice. Some of the biggest names – such as Quebec’s Mikhail Grigorenko and London’s Max Domi – have hit the ground running, but who else should you know for the upcoming season? Here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Mike Reilly, D – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
The Columbus Blue Jackets have long danced with talented offensive defensemen in their organization and the results have been middling, from Kris Russell to the still-developing John Moore. But Reilly was impressive at rookie camp this summer and though he’s a long-term project, his efforts bode well for the Blue Jackets.
“I like to jump into the rush and also be reliable in my own zone,” Reilly said. “I like to be that ‘fourth forward.’ ”
A native of Minnesota, Reilly is part of a wave of kids from that state playing for Penticton this year. Two others? His older twin brothers, Connor and Ryan. All three are committed to the University of Minnesota for 2012-13, but in the meantime, the Reilly boys were intrigued by what the Vees offered.
“We saw they played an offensive style and a puck possession game,” Mike said. “It was a good fit for us.”
While the twins played in the United States League last year, Mike honed his game at Shattuck St-Mary’s, the famous Minnesota prep school. For the skilled blueliner, hockey is about taking a new challenge every season.
“Shattucks was a step up from high school,” he said. “And this will be a way for me to get my feet wet in junior before heading off to college.”
While Columbus certainly won’t rush Reilly’s progress, it’s fair to say the Jackets will be very interested in how that step-by-step approach goes.
Drafted 98th overall by Columbus in 2011.