An inspiring study in ‘sticktoitiveness’ through a pair of shoulder injuries, Reilly Webb refuses to give in.
The 18-year-old Hamilton Bulldogs defenceman has been limited to just 27 games over two seasons after being a second round (33rd overall) pick by the Dogs in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.
Despite limited opportunities to showcase his ability, the 6-foot-3, 201Ib. defender made an impression on the Detroit Red Wings who selected him in the sixth round (164th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft this past June in Chicago.
“I hadn’t had any contact with Detroit before the Draft, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit shocked when I heard my name on the TV,” he recalled. “I went into it not expecting too much, but I was really happy with the way it turned out.
“It’s a confidence builder and it’s a good feeling when a great organization like the Detroit Red Wings believes in your abilities.”
After a productive year with the Toronto Titans Minor Midgets in 2014-15, Webb’s first season in the Bulldogs organization saw him split an injury-shortened campaign between Hamilton and the Ancaster Avalanche Jr. B club where he recorded seven points (1-6–7) over 19 contests between the regular season and playoffs.
Injuries re-emerged to begin 2016-17 as a dislocated shoulder out of training camp prompted surgery that sidelined him for the better part of five months.
Webb returned to finish the season and appear in all seven of Hamilton’s first round contests against the Kingston Frontenacs, a series that saw the Bulldogs’ first trip to the OHL Playoffs end in an overtime heartbreaker.
“My athletic therapist in Hamilton was really good with me,” he said of JP Laciak. “Everyday he worked on me and kept my spirits up. I can’t thank him enough for that. He did a lot of treatment on my shoulder and always wanted me to get back into playing condition.”
Back at 100 percent and feeling stronger as the result of a productive summer training regimen, Webb is eager to get back to Hamilton to get things going again.
“It’s going to be a competitive training camp. With so many guys coming back we’re all going to be fighting for roles and ice time which is a good situation to have. We’re going to have a competitive team and we want to make something special out of this season.”
A former pro defenceman who played 92 games in the NHL, Bulldogs head coach John Gruden has a multitude of options on the back end as a healthy Webb joins an established group consisting of overage options Justin Lemcke, Connor Walters and Stephen Templeton, 19-year-olds Cole Candella, Ben Gleason and Jack Hanley as well as sophomore returnee Riley McCourt.
Webb’s return provides Gruden with a dependable competitor who knows his role well.
“He’s kind of a throwback, a guy that will go out and understand what he is,” Gruden noted. “There’s no identity issues as far as what kind of player he needs to be to make the team better.
“Coming off the injury last year he had the opportunity to do a lot of skating, watch a lot of video and be around the team the entire time. He played extremely well for us late in the season and throughout the playoffs.”
Webb, who models his game after rugged NHL rearguards in Kevin Bieksa of the Anaheim Ducks and Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens, has put in a lot of work this summer and hopes to see it pay off with a full season of action in Hamilton.
“I definitely haven’t had the luck I’ve wanted these past couple seasons, but I’m not going to let the past slow me down,” he said. “I’m anxious to get back out there and show the Red Wings and all the people who’ve supported me along the way what I can do.”
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