Though he’s currently in the process of talking to other teams, University of Minnesota standout Mike Reilly — drafted by Columbus four years ago — says he could still very well end up with the Blue Jackets.
“I haven’t been able to talk to any teams until now since I had to wait 30 days after withdrawing from school,” Reilly said Wednesday, per NHL.com. “There’s a lot of things that go on, but I think it’s good to kind of see what else is out there. I’m still huge on Columbus. But to be in this situation is pretty unique.”
Reilly is currently at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo where, per agent Pat Brisson, he’s meeting with a handful of suitors. It’s believed Chicago and Minnesota (his dad, also named Mike, is a minority owner of the Wild) are among the frontrunners for his services, and there’s a good reason why other teams are trying to get into that mix; the 21-year-old Reilly was a Hobey Baker candidate and two-time All-American that, this season, became the first d-man in nearly 20 years to lead the Golden Gophers in scoring.
Last month, he announced he was leaving the University of Minnesota and upped his professional stock by representing Team USA at the Worlds, where he appeared in all 10 games and helped the Americans capture bronze.
Columbus has been trying to get Reilly signed for quite some time. GM Jarmo Kekalainen worked at inking him repeatedly throughout the last year and, upon trading d-man James Wisniewski at the deadline, said the move would open up a spot for Reilly at the NHL level.
But Reilly seemed determined to test free agent waters, not unlike what former Boston College standout Kevin Hayes did last summer. Hayes, taken in the first round by Chicago in 2010, balked on signing his entry-level deal with the ‘Hawks and instead went UFA, eventually signing with the Rangers.
It’s something that collegiate players can exploit to their benefit. While there’s a cap on how much Reilly can earn on his ELC, he does now have control of his destination and which organization might give him the best chance at playing right away — or, winning right away.