O'Reilly Looks to Make the Next Step
Aug 10, 2009
By: Kami York-Feirn
It’s no secret to fans and players that playing in the major leagues is both physically and mentally tougher than playing in the minors. Players are bigger; they are stronger and they are faster. But most of all, they are more experienced.
Most players work years to build the endurance and confidence it takes to compete with the nation’s best, but many do not make it. One NHL hopeful, Cal O’Reilly, has been working toward his dream of playing full time in the NHL since he was four years old.
If O’Reilly can hone his shooting skills and increase his size and strength, he has a very good chance of playing full-time in the NHL this upcoming season.
O’Reilly was introduced to the ice at a very young age. His father runs a hockey camp and he has numerous uncles and cousins who played before him that sparked his interest in the sport.
“My parents said that I loved watching it on TV,” recalls O’Reilly.
O’Reilly opted for the major junior route over going to college, beginning his career in Ontario, Canada where he was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
“When I was younger, I had to make the decision to go to college or go to the OHL and I liked the idea of joining the OHL a little better,” O’Reilly said. “I felt like it was a better way to get into the NHL than college and I was never really one who like school, so when junior year came around, I decided to go into the draft.”
The OHL is one of three Major Junior ice hockey leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). It is different from the AHL and NHL in that it is not a professional organization and its members do not get paid. While players are allowed to stay in the league until they are 20 years-old, many are drafted before their time is up.
Although players are not guaranteed a future in hockey while playing in the OHL, the league helps players take their game to the next level.
When O’Reilly signed with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, his focus shifted from being drafted to working on getting bigger and stronger. He has always been a player who works year round on his shooting, passing and skating but playing hockey in the pros would require him to also work on his size and strength.
“I have always been a smaller guy on every team that I have played on since I was young but because of that, I work on it and try to outsmart guys,” said O’Reilly. “I’m a little smaller and that’s a disadvantage I have but you have to make up for it with smarts.”
O’Reilly noted that his size has forced him to think of new and creative ways to use his hands and brains to outsmart the competition. He believes his biggest strength is his offensive ability.
“I am a smart player who is good at passing, play making and stick handling who also takes pride in playing good D-zone defensively too,” said O’Reilly.
As a player, he believes you can never be perfect and you can never be too good so he chooses to work on all aspects of his game both on and off the ice.
Aside from his skating technique, two of the main things he is working to improve during the off-season are his strength and making the decision to shoot the puck more. To reach his goals, he is lifting weights daily, doing a lot of jumping-explosiveness drills and foot work speed drills. As season approaches, he hopes to have a stronger upper body and will do more skating and ice work outs.
While O’Reilly has made some previous appearances in NHL games, he has spent a majority of his professional career in the minors, playing 225 games with the Admirals and averaging almost a point per game.
In his NHL appearances, O’Reilly has learned that the game is a lot faster and the players are a lot bigger, but he is ready and anxious to make the transition.
“It’s good to get some experience and get some confidence up there,” O’Reilly said. “Guys are bigger, faster and stronger up there so you have to adjust your game to that level and it takes some time.”
If O’Reilly can bulk up to play with the big boys, his goal would be to spend the entirety of next season in the NHL, putting up good numbers and helping the team to win in the playoffs. When asked where he sees himself five or ten years down the road, O’Reilly responded that he hopes to have signed a contract as a top forward on an NHL team.
“I just love to play hockey. I want to play at the highest level possible and am excited to get started, and definitely a little nervous,” said O’Reilly. “If you can do something you love to do and get paid to do it, that in itself is very rewarding.”