The New Jersey Devils may not be landing the first-overall pick later tonight, but they won’t leave the day without some prospect news of their own. Reilly Walsh has decided to forego his senior year at Harvard and has signed a three-year entry-level contract. Harvard has already seen an exodus from the hockey program after announcing they won’t be playing this season. Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald made a statement on the signing:
We are excited to add Reilly to the Devils’ organization. Since being drafted in 2017, our staff has watched him blossom into the leader he is today, both on and off the ice. Walsh is a fast, puck-moving defenseman who has developed his all-around game this past season. He was a dynamic playmaker for Harvard, with an offensive mind that allowed him to easily transition and jump up into the play if needed. He has the skillset our club is looking for and adds to our stable of defensive professional prospects joining the organization.
Walsh, 21, could arguably be the second-best defense prospect in the Devils system (behind Ty Smith), despite being a third-round selection in 2017. Since then he has improved considerably, becoming a top puck-mover for Harvard this season and polishing his defensive play.
Getting him under contract now is actually perhaps a bigger deal than it seems. Walsh was set on returning to Harvard for his senior season and could have potentially become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The coronavirus situation obviously changed those plans, meaning he’ll jump into professional hockey and be under Devils control for several years.
He’ll certainly compete for an NHL job at training camp, but even if Walsh needs to spend some time in the minor leagues there is a good chance he’ll be in New Jersey before long. The team’s NHL defensive group is relatively young, but also has several names approaching unrestricted free agency. Fredrik Claesson and Dakota Mermis will both see their contracts expire this year, while Connor Carrick becomes a UFA in 2021. P.K. Subban and Will Butcher are set to hit the open market a year after that, meaning there will be opportunities in New Jersey for the taking.