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Minnesota Golden Gopher Defenseman Mike Reilly to Sign with Minnesota Wild

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Reilly chooses Wild over Blackhawks, Penguins, and Kings (not to mention the Columbus Blue Jackets). So what are the Wild getting in their rookie defenseman?

Reilly in action at the IIHF World Championships
Reilly in action at the IIHF World Championships
Matej Divizna/Getty Images

Correction to original story: I mistakenly attributed the story in the link to Patrick Reusse when it came from Michael Russo.  My Bad.  I appreciate that no one pointed this out to me and just let it hang out there like nothing was wrong.  Where were my fact checkers???

According to the Star Tribune's Michael Russo most famous writer from Fulda, former Golden Gopher Mike Reilly has chosen to sign with the Minnesota Wild.  He's rejected interest from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to play for the team of which his father is part-owner.

The Penguins have been a solid club since tanking well enough to draft Sydney Crosby.  The Blackhawks (according to Sports Illustrated, the model NHL Franchise) are clearly one of the best organizations in all of professional sports since tanking well enough to draft Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.  The Blackhawks are also likely to butt up against the salary cap for the coming year and not be able to keep together the defensive corps that was the key to three Stanley Cup championships.  While the Penguins were likely very interested in Reilly (as any team would be) I personally saw Chicago as the greatest threat to woo him away from Minnesota, what with the Cups and possibility of ice team.

After selecting Reilly in the first round, the Columbus Blue Jackets were apparently never really in contention to sign him.  Jackets' head coach Todd Richards even went as far as to add Reilly to Team USA's roster for the IIHF World Championships earlier this year, and he gave Reilly a lot of playing time and valuable experience in the tournament.  It wasn't enough to convince Reilly to sign.

It almost seems apparent that there was never really any question that Reilly would sign with his father's organization, but that's simply my perspective from the outside.

So, this is obviously a big win for the Wild.  For Wild fans unfamiliar with the former Gopher defenseman, here's what you can expect: offense.

In terms of skating ability, puck handling, passing, and vision, there is not a more polished defender to come out of the college ranks this year.  Reilly quartarbacked (to use a verb that's teetering on the brink of overuse) the Gophers' power play essentially for all three years of his college career.  After watching him skate the puck up ice on the power play, the way he sees passing lanes before they open and his ability to simply carry the puck deep into the offensive zone, if I were Mike Yeo I would give a spot on the Wild's PP effective immediately.  Preferably Reilly would assume the spot occupied by Ryan Suter.  There is a stark contrast between Reilly's effortless speed and creativity and Suter's lumbering predictability on the power play.

Wild fan's should also know that Reilly's offensive game doesn't just exist in odd-man situations.  He activates into the rush frequently, is very comfortable streaking to the net in even strength situations.  He has the skating ability to recover his defensive position after activating in the offense.

Reilly is somewhat of a cross between Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin.  He skates as well as Brodin, and has the instincts for offense of Dumba.

The clear difference between Reilly and Dumba is that Reilly will look to create with the pass rather than shooting.  Of his 42 points last season (in 36 games), he recorded 36 assists.  His goal total would likely have been higher if he chose to shoot as often as he chose to pass.  Reilly's uncanny passing ability shows that he has the hands to score goals if he shoots more, which is the main area of potential improvement in his game.

I'm thrilled that Reilly chose the Wild and not the Blackhawks for purely selfish reasons.  I think Wild fans will be awfully happy with what they're going to see.  SKI-U-MAH Wild!