CHICAGO – By the time Will Reilly’s name was announced as the 217th and final pick of the 2017 NHL draft, he had already turned off his television.
At home in Toronto, Reilly was tuning in mostly to see where his neighbor, Jacob Golden, would go. Golden went 147th to the Minnesota Wild, and that’s when Reilly stopped paying close attention to the draft and went about his day. Seventy picks later, his phone rang and it was the Pittsburgh Penguins calling to tell him that he was their seventh-round selection.
“Pretty crazy. I was kind of surprised,” Reilly told Yahoo Sports during a Saturday afternoon phone conversation. “I only talked to them a couple of times. Definitely very honored that they chose me.”
Honoured to be taken by the @penguins. Can't wait to get started!
— Will Reilly (@97WillReilly) June 24, 2017
At 20, this was Reilly’s final year of eligibility for the NHL draft. After a solid season (17-18—35, 47 GP) in the Ontario Junior Hockey League in 2014-15, he was confident he would be taken in that year’s draft. He has spoken to most of the 30 NHL teams that year, but wasn’t selected. Last June he didn’t pay attention at all to the activity in Buffalo and ended up being passed over for a second straight draft.
This season Reilly played NCAA hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, scoring two goals and recording 15 points in 35 games for the Engineers. He spoke to a Penguins scout after his freshman year ended and then again a few weeks ago. He didn’t have any expectations on getting picked after what happened the last two drafts. Now he’s joining an organization that employs a fellow “Mr. Irrelevant” in Patric Hornqvist.
“I don’t really care [about going last], to be honest with you,” Reilly said. “Someone’s got to go last. I’m just really happy to be drafted.”
The 6-foot-5, 193 lbs. Reilly bills himself as an offensive defenseman who plays a physical game and is responsible in his own end. He’s fine with running a power play and is comfortable being put on the penalty kill. He’s very confident he can play in all situations. “I think that’s where the game is moving, that my game really fits the new NHL – a big, puck moving defenseman.”
There’s plenty Reilly wants to clean up in his game this summer and he’ll get some good feedback next week after attending Penguins development camp. For now, he’s enjoying the moment, reflecting back on the support of his parents and brother and ready to take the next step in his hockey career.
“It’s been a good day,” he said.
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