2009 prospects: Ryan O’Reilly

By Holly Gunning

For long-time prospect watchers, sometimes it’s easiest to understand a player by comparison.

Peter Sidorkiewicz, who’s in his 10th year as a coach in the OHL, remembers Ryan O’Reilly‘s older brother Cal, who played for Windsor and was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2005.

"Cal was a real smart player, great passer, competed hard," Sidorkiewicz said. "A lot like Ryan I think. Ryan has a little more offensive gift than Cal does, and he’s a little bigger."

Ryan is 6’0, 205 pounds, while Cal is 5’11, 180 pounds. The combination of the size and offense means that Ryan’s trajectory is probably higher.

"Ryan’s on the radar a little more than Cal was," Sidorkiewicz said. "Cal was a late developer. He came in and the first couple years and I don’t know if he played that much, but his last two years he was a real good player in our league, whereas Rayn’s been a very good player in our league from the day he stepped on the ice."

Indeed, Ryan was the top pick in the OHL draft in 2007. In his rookie year, he scored 52 points in 61 games, and this year has 54 points in 53 games. Forty-one of those points are assists, which is the same pattern you’ll see in Cal’s stats: with 43 assists in 50 games for the AHL Milwaukee Admirals this year.

Ryan is ranked 35th among North American skaters by Central Scouting, and 64th overall by ISS. 

Hockey’s Future talked to the younger O’Reilly before a recent home game.

HF: Why have you been wearing a cage lately?
RO: Three weeks ago I was in Owen Sound and got a stick in the face. It broke my two front teeth. They put a wire across and I have to wear a cage for a few weeks. They capped my teeth.  One split right down the middle and the other like fractured up top in the gum and chipped on the bottom so they capped that also. Pushed it back and capped it.

HF: How do you think you’re a different player than your brother Cal?

RO: I’m a bit bigger, so therefore I have to be more physical, use my body a bit more. I think he’s more talented with his stick.  He’s got better hands than me — which I hate him for (laughs).  In the summer we have some good battles. I ahve to play more of a power forward role and he’s more of a finesse player.

HF: Neither of you like to shoot too much though, you’re each more of a passer.

RO: I think when the game’s on the line you’d like to be shooting. We both like to set up and we’re just more effective that way — help the teammates out.  Especially if you’re on a good team with guys who can score. It builds chemistry. Get the puck and they’ll put it in.

HF: If you and Cal were playing together, who would be more likely to shoot?
RO: Ooo, that’s a good question (laughs). I don’t know.  I think we both would just shoot — we wouldn’t pass to each other.

HF: What kind of pass is your favorite to make?
RO: I like the saucer pass. It goes off the ice and lands.  It’s a tougher pass because you kind of have to time it perfect so it lands over a guy’s stick onto another guy’s stick. And you have to make it land flat so a guy can control it.

HF: And it doesn’t matter if they go in and score, it’s an elegant pass anyway?
RO: (laughs) It helps if they score, that’s the purpose. But if you make a nice pass you feel good, give a guy a good opportunity.

HF: Has Cal given you any advice for the draft?

RO: He gave me a little bit of advice, but it’s more ‘just don’t worry about it.’ It’s just a draft. He was drafted late in teh OHL and expected to go earlier.  He told me not to worry about it, enjoy, just keep playing hard.  Whatever happens, happens. You don’t have any control over how you play. As long as I get drafted I’ll feel pretty good about myself.

HF: Have NHL teams come and talked to you?

RO: No, I haven’t talked to anyone.  My brother only talked to a few teams his draft year. Maybe they want to wait til the end, stay away from you, let you play and not get in your head.

HF: Are you the youngest child?
RO: No, I have a younger sister. It goes my brother, then my sister Tara who’s 20, then me and then my younger sister.

HF: Your dad runs a hockey camp, is that what he does for a living, training?
RO: That’s part of his life. He’s a counselor, he goes to companies and works with them internally — how to work as a team kind of thing. Sports is one of his main things. He coaches beach volleyball with the Australian National Team. He loves to coach, loves to train. Close to the start of the (hockey) season he has a camp for a bunch of guys.

HF: Your scoring rate has increased over the season. Why do you think that is?

RO: I think I’ve been doing pretty much teh same things, but now I’m getting the bounces and the team’s finding the chemistry. Being on a line with (Andrew) Yogan and (Shawn) Szydlowski, as a line we’re just coming together.

HF: Have you been with those two long?
RO: I’ve been with Szydlowski pretty much the whole year. I played with Yogan and (Sean) Jones and a few other guys.

HF: Do you feel like your confidence level is high right now too?

RO: Yeah, I think if things go in you feel better about yourself.  I don’t think too high or too low, it is what it is, just preparing to win.

HF: What’s the most adversity you’ve faced in your career? Maybe a time when you were the most down on yourself?
RO: That’s a tough question.  I think something I had to face was being the first overall pick (in the OHL). I think there’s a lot of pressure in that situation. Just having to face that, face the pressure and go out and play and put it behind you. It was really hard, a lot of expectations. I think I learned to let go of it and play the game, whatever happens, happens.

HF: Is it nice to just be one of the guys now?

RO: Yeah, it takes the pressure off. The pressure is good for some things. I started to perform better, but it’s nice not to have that spotlight. I can relax a bit and just keep playing.

HF: Have you been at center all year and do you think you’ll stay at center as you move up?

RO: I’ve been at center all year.  It really doesn’t matter where I play. Last year I played wing most of the year so I got to experience that. It’s not a big change for me.

HF: Who’s your agent?
RO: Newport Sports, Pat Morris.

HF: Is that the same group your brother uses?

RO: Yeah, we’re both under them. As it got closer to my draft year they decided to represent me. It’s really helped me out, gave me a lot of exposure. My agent has dealt with good guys. It’s nice support to have, someone who’s pushing for me.