SHOW STOPPERS - DYLAN REESE
Islanders' defenseman Dylan Reese talks about his first stint in the NHL
Monday, 06.07.2010 / 4:48 PM / News
By Alex Silverman
It was a pretty crazy couple of days. “Whirlwind” was what everyone used to describe it. I got traded on a Monday night at around 4 p.m. I was just minding my own business at home when I got the call. It was a pretty interesting feeling. I had never gotten traded before so I had mixed feelings about it. Obviously it’s good to go somewhere where you know they want you in the organization, but at the same time I had some great teammates and I never really had a chance to say good-bye to them. I left that night a couple hours after I as traded and reported to Bridgeport and we had a game the next night against Hershey. I got in pretty late and then I was up early for physicals, keeping me from the pregame skate unfortunately. I played that night on not much sleep, but a lot of adrenaline and emotion because I wanted to make a good impression with the organization and my new teammates. We were playing Hershey, the best team in the league. We played pretty well but lost 6-3. That next morning I went to practice in Bridgeport, which was really the first time I was getting to sit back and talk to some of the guys and become part of the team because the night before I basically showed up right before the game and hadn’t met any of the guys. I went to practice and felt more comfortable. I was just trying to get through practice, go back to the hotel, and get some sleep but got a call from Coach Capuano at about one in the afternoon. He said there had been a trade and there was an injury on the Island and that I should stay by my phone because I could get called up. It was an incredible feeling. I called my dad and told him I might be brought up, but at the same time it was just so shocking to me. I had been there for a day and a half and circumstances had just worked out in my favor. He called me back an hour later and said ‘you have to hustle to the rink, grab your sticks and your gear, and you need to drive to Farmingdale airport on Long Island.’ I left my car there and took a town car to LaGuardia and took a commercial flight and met the team down in Atlanta. It was a rush. I made my flight by a matter of minutes, so it was pretty close. It was just an unbelievable three days. It couldn’t have been better for me and it was just really exciting the whole way.
What was the dynamic like walking into an NHL dressing room where you really didn’t know the guys?
Oddly enough I knew a few guys on the Islanders. I trained with Richard Park the last five or six summers, so I was very comfortable with him. I knew Rob Schremp and Freddy Meyer, who I played a stint with in San Antonio. The guys on the Island couldn’t have been more welcoming and I mean that with a hundred percent sincerity. It’s one of the best teams I’ve ever played on. There’s a lot of youth and enthusiasm and energy every night. There wasn’t a bump in the road. The moment I walked in I felt like I was part of the team and obviously the longer I stayed, the more comfortable I felt. We had some incredible ties and it’s a great mixture of veterans and youth. They made my stay there so much more enjoyable.
What was going through your mind when you stepped out onto the NHL ice for the first time?
I had mixed feelings there too. That night we didn’t play our best game and it was kind of a weak crowd in Atlanta. I think they scored on my first shift. So, it definitely wasn’t an ideal start. I told myself that I had nothing to lose and I got some advice from some of the guys on the team that told me the same thing. When you’re in that position you just need to go out there and play your game. I wanted to make simple, smart plays, but at the same time I didn’t want to play overly passive because that’s when you get yourself in trouble. I just tried to do what had made me successful up to that point, think simple and smart and if you can make a play, make it. It wasn’t the best game I’ve played, that’s for sure, but overall I don’t think I got myself in too much trouble. I learned a lot and it was an incredible experience, especially having my parents and my first coach there making the trip.
What was your “Welcome to the NHL” moment when you realized that you were playing on the big stage?
I just noticed the size and strength of everyone. There aren’t any weak players or anyone who is physically inferior. Everyone is big and strong and can skate. The moment for me when I realized I was up against the world’s best talent was when Evgeni Artyukhin, who’s a big, strong, power forward for Atlanta, had the puck behind the net and took off down the ice through our team and around our defense and scored. I had just never seen a guy of that size skate with that speed and that power.
You scored your first NHL goal twelve days later against the Canucks. Take us through that play and reflect on how you felt after scoring.
Obviously I was really hoping it would happen. As a defenseman who joins the team and doesn’t get much time on the power-play or in many offensive situations, I didn’t really feel any pressure to score, but it was just so great to get that goal. It was really a great cycle play by the forwards. I chipped the puck in and Moulson made a great recovery. He got the puck to Johnny (John Tavares) and he made some phenomenal plays and some quick cut-backs, which I’ve seen him use quite often. He shook free for a minute and just gave me a good pass. I just took a hard wrister that kind of had eyes and found the top corner. Tim Jackman set a great screen in front while Moulson drove to the back post. I’m happy it wasn’t one of those goals that goes off a guy’s shin pad or off a foot and in. It was nice to score in that manner and I think I’ve scored a decent amount of goals that way with hard wristers that just get through and find the net. It was obviously nice to score against Roberto Luongo and in Vancouver it was an incredible atmosphere. We really took the crowd out of it early and it was just nice to score in an arena like that, while also getting the win.
After being called-up, you spent the rest of the season playing with the big club. How do you think you’ve adjusted to the NHL in your time with the Islanders this past season?
I think I came along pretty well. I was happy with the way I adjusted and once I felt a little more comfortable I started to play a little bit better and with a little more confidence. I started to make more plays that I had been making everyday in the AHL but as my comfort level rose, I was able to transfer it over to the NHL. I think my game as a whole just developed. The team was never overly critical. Any criticism we got was constructive and it definitely helped me grow. I also learned a lot from just watching the other guys out there making plays. I got more comfortable with the speed and became more confident in my own abilities and that I could play with guys like Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo. Having these games now under my belt, I have that much more confidence going into the summer and the upcoming training camp. That’s a huge stepping-stone for me.
Did your first NHL stint live up to your expectations? Was there anything that came as a surprise to you?
It was everything I expected it to be plus more. Everything about the league is great. I was expecting pretty much what I got. The talent of the players is phenomenal, the buildings are great, and the travel is much different from the AHL. The only thing that maybe surprised me was the caliber of guys and players we have on the Islanders. I was very impressed with the way the team played, even though we went 9-9-1 down the stretch while I was there. We were in every game that we lost and we really just have a phenomenal group of guys. It’s a great mix and one of the best teams I’ve played on and I really hope I can be a part of it in the future.
You were quoted saying that you were excited to play the Hershey Bears in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. How much of that was confidence from playing the final two months in the NHL?
Definitely a lot of it. My feeling going into that Hershey series was that we were going to have to get past them at some point and I wanted to play them early. I thought it would definitely benefit the four of us coming from the Island (Andrew MacDonald, Dustin Kohn and Mark Flood) and I was hoping that we could add a real boost for the Sound Tigers. I was happy with the way we played. We competed every game. Had the first two games gone differently, I think it would’ve been a different series. We lost the first game in overtime on kind of a bad call. I really think that we played a solid series against them and I was really excited to play them. Hershey is a phenomenal building to play in and it was nice to be an underdog and go in there and play our best hockey.
What things from the NHL that you learned were you able to bring back to the AHL playoffs?
It was good for me personally. I don’t want to say that we matched up the lines that much while I was on the Island because I don’t think we did too much, but I wasn’t necessarily playing against the other team’s top lines. When I went down to Bridgeport, my role was kind of reversed. I spent a lot of time on the ice with Alexander Giroux, Keith Aucoin, and Andrew Gordon. So for me personally, it was about doing my best to keep those guys off the board. I honestly had a lot more confidence coming back and I think I was a better player after my time on Long Island. When you make the game a little bit simpler you make better plays and that’s what we had to do.
What have you been up to so far this offseason and when do you start preparing for the season ahead?
I don’t think you ever really stop preparing in this day and age. I obviously took a little time off after the playoffs in Bridgeport. I went on a couple of small vacations. I’ve really been getting into yoga and pilates and trying to strengthen my core and keep my body loose. About the beginning of May is when the Islanders of-season work-out program starts to pick up, so the last couple of weeks I’ve been working in the Islanders strength and conditioning program. July 1, I head to Los Angeles to train at a facility called Athlete’s Performance, where I’ve trained with Richard the last six years and he’ll be there again too. Obviously I’ve started preparing, but the next week or two is when the heavy stuff starts to kick in and I start to really hit the ice again and get excited and do the best I can for next season.
What are your goals coming into Training Camp and how do you see yourself fitting in with the Islanders in the future?
My goal for training camp is to be an NHL guy. I hope I’ve proven to the staff that I’m capable and that I can be a regular and contribute like I did last year. I’m just going to come back and work on the things that the staff thought I needed to work on. I’m going to come in with a good attitude and give it my all in every practice and every game and, like I said, just prove that I can be a guy piece of the puzzle for this team next year and hopefully into the future.