The Calgary Flames added some defensive depth when they signed Kenney Morrison as a NCAA free agent in March, and would be wise to double down and attempt to bring fellow NCAA free agent Mike Reilly to the Flames organization.
Reilly was a fourth round selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2011 NHL Draft, but has spent the past four years proving everyone wrong who let him slide to the 98th pick in the draft. He has left College but failed to come to terms on a contract with the Blue Jackets so he will become a free agent on July 1st.
After being drafted, the left shooting American defenseman moved to Canada to play one season with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League in order to keep his NCAA eligibility for the following season. Reilly dominated the BCHL, scoring 24 goals, 59 assists and 83 points in 51 games, leading his Vees squad to a national championship.
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Reilly went back to his home province to suit up for the University of Minnesota for the 2012-13 season. His first NCAA season was unremarkable, as the freshman scored three goals and 14 points in 37 games, but the Chanhassen native played well enough to earn an invitation to represent the USA at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Reilly scored three points in seven games at the World Jr’s and helped USA win gold, but really broke out in his sophomore campaign at Minnesota. He scored 33 points in 42 games as a defenseman in 2013-14, and set another career high this season with 42 points in 39 games and being named a finalist for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award.
May 8, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames during the national anthem before the game against the Anaheim Ducks in game four of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Reilly was then asked to represent his country once again, this time at the 2015 World Hockey Championships where he would be competing against some of the world’s best players. He recorded one assist in 10 games as the Americans took home a bronze medal, but Reilly showed he has the skills and smarts to skate alongside elite competition.
The Flames have many exciting young forwards in Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan as well as impressive goaltending depth with Joni Ortio, Jon Gillies and Mason McDonald in the system. However, Calgary really needs to bolster their blue line now and in the future, and finding a way to land a highly touted 21 year old free agent Mike Reilly would go a long way toward filling that organizational void.
Reilly would of course not be taking any ice time away from Flames top pairing defenders Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie but has the elite level skills that could see him playing on their second pairing as early as next season.
There will be a long list of suitors lining up to try and land Mike Reilly. The Calgary Flames can offer a unique package of playing a prominent role right away on a team with a very bright future that is coming off a season where they made it to the second round of the postseason.
Looking at the impact that players in similar situations have had over the past few years, such as Danny DeKeyser with the Detroit Red Wings and Kevin Hayes with the New York Rangers, you get the impression that Reilly could greatly improve the fortunes of the Calgary Flames for many years to come.