Mike Reilly might not possess that intimidating look or hulking stature that's usually coveted in today's defensemen, but it's amazing what intelligence and vision can do for a top prospect along the blue line.
In his first season at the famed Shattuck-St. Mary's school in Faribault, Minn. -- after spending two seasons at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minn. -- Reilly was able to elevate his draft stock down the stretch by playing a key role in Shattuck's first USA Hockey national championship in three seasons.
Despite his 5-foot-10, 150-pound frame, Reilly catapulted 13 slots to No. 52 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft. It marked the second-biggest jump by a high school player -- behind center Steven Fogarty of Edina High (42 spots to No. 90).
Reilly also has the distinction of being the top-ranked scholastic defenseman available in the 2011 Entry Draft.
"I try and use my strengths to compensate for my size, like my skating and hockey sense and passing ability, to get around the 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 guys," Reilly told NHL.com. "I know at the higher levels I'll see a lot more of the bigger and stronger guys, but I'm going to use my strengths as a hockey player to get around it."
Regarded as a sound two-way performer, Reilly had 13 goals, 43 points and 26 penalty minutes in 48 games this past season.
"I thought everything went really well this year," Reilly said. "Since Day 1, we wanted to achieve the goal of winning a national championship and we ended up doing that. I transferred to Shattuck because I thought it would be the best opportunity for me to develop into a college hockey player. Shattuck has great coaching and they always have a winning teams and kids who want to achieve their goals of playing in the NHL … so it was awesome."
Reilly knows many of the NHL's top current performers have ties to Shattuck, including Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils, No. 17, 2003), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins, No. 1, 2005), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders, No. 7, 2006), Derek Stepan (New York Rangers, No. 51, 2008) and Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks, No. 3, 2006).
"(Shattuck) is known for developing players, and obviously you have some big names like Crosby and Parise out there, but there's also a lot of guys who move on to college and that's a big reason why I wanted to go to Shattuck," Reilly said.
Reilly's college route will take him to the University of Minnesota. Before that, though, he said he's looking forward to the Draft and spending the weekend with family and friends. Reilly's dad, Mike, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the eighth round in 1977.
"It's going to be an unbelievable experience," Reilly said. "I'll be there for sure with family and friends and I'm really looking forward to that event. Growing up in Minnesota, I had a great group of friends I'd meet with and play on the ponds … it was always fun. I was out there every day with my buddies, so it was a great time."
Reilly was born in Chicago but now lives in Chanhassen, Minn. He said he would compare his style of game to San Jose's Dan Boyle or Ottawa's Erik Karlsson.
"I consider myself an offensive defenseman," he said. "I kind of like to be the fourth forward in the play and I take pride in being reliable in my own zone."
NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee offers a different comparison.
"He's smart, polished and effortless … just a highly-skilled kid," Barzee told NHL.com. "Mike Reilly is like John-Michael Liles (Colorado Avalanche). He's dynamic and he never beats himself. If he does get beat, it's because the guy made a heck of a play on him. He's like a Timex watch -- he just keeps on playing, keeps it simple."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale