RPI’s Reilly signs with Penguins

Remains in limbo because of pandemic, but happy to at least get some business done with two-year contract
RPI's Will Reilly (24) battles for the puck with Union's Anthony Rinaldi during the Mayor's Cup in Albany.
RPI's Will Reilly (24) battles for the puck with Union's Anthony Rinaldi during the Mayor's Cup in Albany.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

Will Reilly is stuck between wondering what might have happened last month and what will happen in the next few months.

But as of Wednesday, at least he has a pro contract squared away.

And two classes to finish up at RPI.

The Engineers’ senior defenseman and captain from Toronto signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who picked him in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

He’s finishing up his coursework online and doing what he can on his own to stay in shape, without having a clear idea of when the sports world will be in position to gear up again in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting the contract signed with the Penguins checks one thing off the to-do list, anyway.

“It’s been great. It’s nice to be home to share it with my family,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “Life hasn’t changed too much, because of the quarantine and stuff, but I’m happy to get the contract done, for sure.”

Reilly does have a feel for the Penguins organization and what is expected of him as a pro, having spent the last three summers participating in the team’s Prospects Development Camp.

“You can just tell when you walk in the building that it’s just a first-class organization, the way that management, coaching, training staff are all just really good people, and it’s no surprise that they’ve had such a great stretch here for the last 15 years,” he said.

He is the 64th RPI player to be drafted by the NHL and the third to be selected by the Penguins, after Matt Murley and Andrew MacPherson were both picked by Pittsburgh in 1999.

In 139 career games at RPI, Reilly notched 22 goals and 46 assists for 68 points, including 8-14-22 in 34 games this season, to go with a team-leading plus/minus of +14, nine power-play points and average of 2.53 shots per game.

He was named to the All-ECAC Hockey second team.

Besides his offensive production from the blueline, Reilly has worked on the defensive end as his senior year approached.

“Freshman, sophomore years, I think people would’ve thought I was more of an offensive defenseman, but the last couple years I worked on my defensive game, so I’m hoping to be able to come in and be relied upon in a lot of situations,” he said.

Despite everything he has to look forward to — even without a definitive return to just lacing up skates, much less joining the Penguins — Reilly can’t help but wonder what the Engineers may have accomplished in the postseason.

RPI got on a tear to end the season and, on the final day of the regular season, clinched fourth place and a first-round bye in the ECACH playoffs. Then the rest of the postseason, after first-round games had been played, was canceled.

RPI had not had a bye since the 2012-13 season.

“It was really hard,” Reilly said. “We were playing some of our best hockey going into the playoffs, and it’s really frustrating that we didn’t get a chance to make a run at a championship. I thought we had a really good chance, just from the way we were playing and the way Saves [goalie Owen Savory] was playing.

“But I can’t say we have any regrets. We had a really good season, and it’s really hard that we couldn’t finish the mission, but I know great things are ahead for the program.”

Reach Mike MacAdam at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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