Mike Reilly was only acquired by the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, but he seems to be quite the familiar face inside the dressing room already.
Traded from the Minnesota Wild on Monday in exchange for a fifth-round selection in 2019, Reilly joins the Canadiens knowing several players on the team, including most notably Charlie Lindgren, whom he spent large portions of his childhood with.
“We grew up like 20 minutes away from each other,” said Reilly following his first practice in Montreal on Tuesday. “We played triple-A in the summer together and we also have similar friends. I know he’s best friends with [Brady] Skjei on the New York Rangers who was my roommate in college so there’s kind of a connection there.”
A Bond Created Through Hardship
Reilly and Lindgren’s bond, however, grew from having to overcome similar bumps in the road on their way to the NHL together.
“Me and Charlie were smaller guys back in the day. We never really made the big teams and the development camps, so I remember me and him always kind of stuck together a little bit,” said Reilly. “It’s pretty cool to see him doing well, especially last night (in Montreal’s 1-0 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers). Two Minnesota guys, I guess that’s never a bad thing.”
Lingren was equally excited to rejoin his former Minnesota Icemen triple-A teammate.
“We go way back,” said Lingren. “Age 10 was when I think we started playing together. We played triple-A together until probably 13 or 14-years-old so we did a lot of travel together. He’s a guy with tremendous talent. He can do some special things with the puck so he’s definitely a good add.
Size is no longer an issue for the 6-foot-2 defenceman. Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 98th overall in the 2011 Entry Draft, Reilly is listed as the second tallest defender on the Canadiens, a trait that certainly enticed general manager Marc Bergevin. He also possesses certain skills that are lacking on the Canadiens blue line, affirming Lingren’s assessment
“I like to use my speed and make good passes up to the forwards,” said Reilly. “Just by seeing the first practice it seems like there are a lot of skilled guys here, and a guy like me, I like playing with guys like that who can hit the fourth guy coming in late and make plays. I think I have a good stick and can close gaps. I’m not the most physical guy, but I try to get away with my skating, and I think I’ve got an underrated shot too.”
In 38 games with the Wild this season, Reilly recorded two goals and 10 points. Averaging just over 10 minutes of playing time per game, Reilly projects to be a third-pairing defenseman on the Canadiens. After playing behind players like Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, and Jonas Brodin in Minnesota, he is confident that he can apply what he learned to succeed in Montreal.
“We had some great defenseman there. I learned a lot from them,” said Reilly. They’re pretty established guys in the league. Obviously I had some ups and downs but I think when I got my opportunities, I felt like I was doing pretty good. I wish it could have gone a little better but I feel like the opportunity here is going to be good for me.”
Reilly’s World Junior Ties
Lindgren is not the only former teammate of Reilly’s on the Canadiens. During the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, Reilly played on the Gold Medal-winning American team that also featured left-winger Alex Galchenyuk. In seven games, Reilly scored one goal and two assists, while Galchenyuk registered two goals and six assists.
“I think we might have been on the same power play for a little bit,” said Reilly. “Obviously we had a great tournament there and played with so many great guys. So I know him, and I know [Andrew] Shaw a little bit too.”
Family Connection in Montreal
Reilly’. father, Michael, was selected by Montreal in the eighth-round of the 1977 Amateur Draft. Although, he never appeared in an NHL game, the elder Reilly can pass on some knowledge about the city to his son.
“I was talking to him about that yesterday,” said Reilly. “He said he got drafted here but I don’t know too many details. He was at one training camp for sure so I guess he knows the city a little better than me and that’s pretty cool. Now that I’m here, it’s definitely very special. Hopefully he can come see me play here soon.”
Reilly will make his debut with the Canadiens on Wednesday night versus the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre. In their only matchup this season on Jan 15, the Islanders beat the Canadiens 5-4 in overtime, highlighted by 20-year-old Matthew Barzal’s three-point effort. Reilly is fully aware of what comes with joining his new team, but is looking forward to stepping onto the ice for the first time as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
“It’s obviously an unbelievable city and historic franchise, said Reilly. It’s a city that wants a winning team on the ice and that comes with the pressure. I know Minnesota is a hotbed of hockey, but obviously this is a whole other level. I had a good time in Minnesota, but I’m ready to start a new chapter here.”