Someone always has to be last.
In this year’s NHL Draft, Canadian defenceman Will Reilly took home that honour.
The Pittsburgh Penguins took Reilly with the 217th pick Saturday afternoon and he was thrilled about it.
“I was kind of surprised,” Reilly told Sean Leahy of Yahoo Sports. “I only talked to them a couple of times. Definitely very honoured that they chose me.”
The soon-to-be 20-year-old wasn’t expecting to be picked after being passed over in the past two drafts. In 2015 he was tabbed by NHL Central Scouting as the top prospect in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) but he went unclaimed that year. If the Penguins hadn’t drafted Reilly Saturday, his draft eligibility would have expired and he would have become an unrestricted free agent.
“William Reilly is an offensive defenceman, has good size, he skates well,” said Randy Sexton, the Penguins director of amateur scouting. “He moves the puck and he can really shoot the puck. We have some hope for him as a puck-moving, offensive defenceman.”
Listed at six-foot-one and 197 pounds, Reilly is coming off his first season in the NCAA with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Engineers. In 35 games with the Engineers, he had two goals, 15 points and 68 penalty minutes.
Reilly is the fourth player on the current RPI roster to be drafted into the NHL. Teammates Todd Burgess (Ottawa, fourth round, 2016), Chase Perry (Detroit, fifth round, 2014) and Mike Prapavessis (Dallas, fourth round, 2014) have all been chosen in recent years.
Reilly also becomes the 63rd player drafted into the NHL in school history. Notable alumni include Hall of Famer Adam Oates, goaltender Daren Puppa and forward Joe Juneau.
If Reilly is discouraged about his chances to make the NHL after being drafted last, he shouldn’t be. He only has to look at new Penguins teammate Patric Hornqvist for inspiration. Hornqvist was taken with the last pick, 230th overall, by the Nashville Predators in 2005 and earlier this month, he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal.
At least for now, Reilly says he doesn’t care about when he was taken. He’s just glad to have finally been given a chance by an NHL team.
“I don’t really care [about going last], to be honest with you,” Reilly told Leahy. “Someone’s got to go last. I’m just really happy to be drafted.”