The fact that the Islanders got Mike Reilly for literally nothing is laughable. Claimed off waivers from the Florida Panthers on November 25th after the Islanders lost Pelech and Sebastian Aho in the same game, Reilly has made a strong to stay in the Islanders' lineup even after the blue line is healthy.
He had only played two games for the Panthers with zero points, a -2 rating, and only seven shots on goal. The 30-year-old is in his ninth NHL season for his sixth NHL team. But it seems that in playing with the Islanders, Reilly has finally been given his chance to shine.
Starting from his first game, fans quickly realized how solid of a defenseman Reilly is. He throws big hits but often relies on his speed and natural defensive abilities to control his gameplay. He's an excellent passer and has made some amazing plays that may not always lead to goals but create chances and rushes for the Isles. He's solid in his own zone, blocking shots and getting gritty to box players out.
Reilly also isn't afraid to play a strong offensive game, and Islanders fans are excited to see a bottom six defenseman show offensive abilities, something that has been missing from this team for a while. in just 18 games with the Islanders, Reilly has 3 goals and 5 assists. He is also averaging 9.61 shots on goal per 60 minutes and 16.45 shot attempts per 60 minutes, most among all NHL defenseman this season.
The Islanders have long struggled with transitioning from the defensive to the offensive zone, but Reilly has changed the game for the Islanders. He's strong with the puck and can carry it into the offensive zone, meaning the Islanders can rely less on the dump-and-chase game they love. He's great at jumping up on the rush and uses his speed to stay up with even the fastest Islanders forwards, but can recover and skate back in an odd-man rush by their opponents. Despite coming into the locker room about a quarter of the way through the season, Reilly has looked like he belongs in this group and has made an argument for Lambert not taking him out of the lineup once everyone is healthy. As far as I'm concerned I would much rather see Reilly playing with this team than young defensemen Aho or Sam Bolduc as the season progresses and everyone gets healthy.
Reilly has an amazing hockey IQ and is able to read the game in a way Islanders fans haven't seen in a while. He's not the biggest guy on the ice but uses his speed and strength to make outstanding defensive plays and is still amazing in the offensive zone. Even though he only has eight points on the season thus far, he makes an impact every time he steps on the ice on both ends. One flaw some might point out is that Reilly continues to take a lot of penalties, and that comes with his style of play, Reilly has 12 penalty minutes in 18 games which is far more than he should be taking.
reilly has been a terrific addition to the organization and has brought another element of life and excitement into this team.