Mike Reilly will play professional hockey next season. The Gophers’ All-America junior defenseman told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that he will forgo his senior season and sign a professional contract soon, but with what organization is still unknown.
“[I] will not be returning [next season] and will know more after the [World Championships] tournament,” Reilly said. “I don’t want to talk too much about my situation. But I am going to worlds the 25th [of April] and I’m very excited.”
Reilly reportedly is one of three college hockey standouts that will play for Team USA at the World Championships, May 1-17 in the Czech Republic.
“Whether I play or not, it should be a great experience,” said Reilly, referring to the chance to represent his country on a roster built of mostly professional talent.
Mike Guentzel, the Gophers associate head coach who oversees the defenseman, also confirmed that he’d be losing his star defenseman less than a week after losing goalie Adam Wilcox and defenseman Brady Skjei to the pros. They who were juniors, too.
“I talked to [Mike] last week when we had our season-ending meetings. Mike is going to sign, it’s just a matter of who he’s going to sign with. He’s got options,” Guentzel said.
Reilly, a 6-1, 182-pound All-America defenseman from Chanhassen, was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fourth round (98th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The Blue Jackets tried to sign Reilly after his standout sophomore season and have spent the past month publicly lobbying for Reilly to sign with the organization before he’s eligible to become a free agent on June 1.
There were reports that the Blue Jackets would elevate Reilly to the NHL immediately to finish out the season. Reilly didn’t seem interested.
“He’s going to] make a decision sometime in May [or June] what he’s going to do,” Guentzel said. “He’s 21 and he’s earned that right and opportunity, and he’s in a good situation. I really respect how much Columbus has tried to go after him and I think he’d be in a good situation there, but he has to make the decision that is best for him.”
Reilly emerged as one of the top defenseman and players in college hockey as a sophomore and helped guide the Gophers to a national runner-up finish. He had an even better junior season, compiling 42 points (six goals, 36 assists), most among all college hockey defensemen, and claimed back-to-back Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.
He closes his college career with 89 points (18 goals, 71 assists) and a plus-minus rating of plus-45. His 42 points led the team this season.
Sophomore forward Hudson Fasching is another player considered ready to make the jump to pro hockey.