'Blessed' to be a Devil
"Blessed" was one of the words Reilly Walsh used to describe his feeling when he found out he had become a member of the New Jersey Devils organization.
The Devils selected Walsh, who grew up in Andover, with the 81st overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft Saturday at the United Center in Chicago.
Walsh (5-foot-11, 181 pounds) was ranked No. 60 in the NHL Central Scouting Service's final draft rankings of North American players.
The offensive-minded defenseman tallied 69 points (30 goals, 39 assists) over 30 games in his senior season at Proctor Academy this past winter. He finished the year as the first defenseman since the 1985-86 season to lead New England prep schools in scoring.
Walsh will begin his collegiate career at Harvard this coming school year. The Crimson made their first Frozen Four appearance since 1994 and won both the ECAC Hockey and Ivy League titles this past season, as well as the Beanpot.
"I wouldn't say it was stressful but it was a nerve-wracking day from start to finish," Walsh said of his Saturday. "Once I heard my name called, I was super excited. It's unbelievable to be picked by a team like the Devils."
Walsh did not know the Devils were going to select him until he heard his name announced at the United Center as the fourth selection of the third round. He interviewed with New Jersey this past fall and winter and during the NHL Combine.
"I knew they were interested, but I wasn't sure," said Walsh, who attended the draft with his father, Mike, and 15-year-old brother, Ronan. "A lot of teams, it's hard to read into levels of interest and you never know what is going to happen until the day."
Walsh, who flew back from Chicago Saturday night, plans to celebrate becoming a member of the Devils by having a family cookout today.
Walsh said he feels the Devils have availability on the back end and said his two-way style of play fits with what clubs are looking for from defensemen.
Being part of the offense has always been a staple of Walsh's game and he has spent the past few seasons improving his defensive play.
"That's where I've been working the most is defensively and becoming more of a two-way player," Walsh said.
The Devils will get to learn more about Walsh's game when he participates in the team's training camp this fall.
Knowing where he will begin his NHL career will help Walsh as he prepares to join Harvard, he said.
"I think kind of having the future as of right now selected, I think I can just focus on getting better as a player and the rest will fall into place," Walsh said.
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Like Walsh, incoming University of New Hampshire freshmen Max Gildon and Benton Maass heard their names called during the 2017 NHL Draft on Saturday.
Gildon (6-foot-3, 191 pounds), a defenseman from Plano, Texas, was drafted 66th overall by the Florida Panthers. Maass, a fellow defenseman, was selected 182nd overall by the Washington Capitals. UNH lists Maass as 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds.
Gildon has been invited to play for the United States in the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase, which begins July 29 in Plymouth, Mich. He helped the U.S. National Under-18 team win gold at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.
Maass, of Elk River, Minn., played for both Elk River High School and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League last season. He logged 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) in the regular season for Elk River and registered seven goals and nine assists during the Ice Dogs' regular season.