The options for a young hockey player to keep himself entertained these days are few and far between, something that 21-year-old Binghamton Devils defenseman Reilly Walsh, a first-year pro, knows all too well.
With COVID-19 protocols still very strict, and an abbreviated game schedule in the American Hockey League this season, there’s been plenty of down time for the former Harvard standout, so he’s been relying heavily on watching a lot of television shows, movies or jumping on Xbox with his brother and former Crimson teammates.
The latter has been particularly fun for the affable blueliner, who appreciates being able to communicate with his friends during game sessions, which usually are limited to some Call of Duty games and NHL 21, in which he says he hasn’t played as the B-Devils just yet, but does check the roster every now and then, wondering when he’ll get in the game.
“I’m waiting for if they ever do a (roster) update any time, and I am looking forward to seeing myself in the game,” Walsh told The Trentonian after practice via Zoom on Friday.
“That’s something you kind of dream of as a kid, just to see what my overall (rating) is and all that stuff. I know it won’t be high or anything.”
Don’t be so sure.
Walsh has gotten off to a hot start with Binghamton — who are playing all of their home games at the New Jersey Devils practice rink that’s built into the Prudential Center this season — and scored a highlight reel, coast-to-coast power play goal in Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Hershey Bears.
Two separate posts of the video on Twitter have garnered nearly 20,000 combined views, but also have helped put a spotlight on his first four games as a whole. He leads the B-Devils with a +5 plus/minus rating, and is tied for the team lead among defensemen with two goals.
The outlook was high for the 6-foot, 185 pounder after he was drafted in the third round by the Devils back in 2017, but it would seem that at least early on this season, he’s exceeded even his own expectations.
“I kind of surprised myself a little bit at times, but at the same time, I have a lot of confidence in my ability to make plays,” he said. “It’s kind of been a blur, to be honest. I’m trying to take as much in as I can, and there’s a lot of plays where I feel like I could do a lot better, and some that where it’s like, ‘Wow, I didn’t think that I could do that, like (Wednesday’s) goal.’ But, a lot of times, I have confidence with the puck on my stick in the offensive zone, and now I’m just looking to expand my game in the D zone and really be a shutdown guy down there and give the other guys confidence when we do go in the D zone. I try to play my game with a lot of confidence, and it’s been good that the Binghamton coaching staff and the guys have shown that in me.”
That Walsh is getting a head start on learning the pro game was hardly a given heading into this season. A highly regarded three-year standout at Harvard — he scored 27 goals from the back end, while adding 51 assists as well en route to numerous ECAC and All-Ivy honors — Walsh was leaning towards returning to Cambridge before ultimately weighing his options and foregoing his senior year of eligibility.
With the Ivy League having postponed their winter sports season, not to mention having just done the same for spring sports, and it seems as though he made the right decision in retrospect, albeit one he says that wasn’t necessarily influenced by anticipating that happening.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened the way it did for them,” Walsh said. “Ultimately, it was a tough decision for me back in August, but my decision really didn’t factor in if they ended up starting in January. I think it was more just seeing what New Jersey and Binghamton was going to have available for me and comparing that to a potential season in January for Harvard where I had a pretty solid role there. But, when it came down to it, I thought I was ready to make the jump to pro hockey and most likely play for Binghamton…besides the fact that they cancelled, I think I made the right decision, 100 million percent. I’m very happy to be a part of Binghamton right now, it’s been going really well and I’ve been having a lot of fun.”