Willcox Excited For Pro Experience

Thursday, March 24, 2016
Assistant coach Riley Cote gives newcomer Reece Willcox some instruction in Tuesday's practice.
The Philadelphia Flyers signed Reece Willcox to an entry level contract Monday. On Tuesday morning, he joined the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on an amateur tryout and skated at the team's practice - his first taste of hockey at the professional level.

"It's been pretty exciting so far," Willcox said after his first on-ice practice. "It's been kind of a whirlwind as far as getting school sorted out and getting out here, but a lot of texts from family and friends sending congratulations so I'm really excited to get going here."

Willcox joins the Phantoms after finishing his senior season at the University of Cornell, where he was a co-captain and added 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 33 games. 

The 6-4 defenseman been re-united with former Cornell product Cole Bardreau in Lehigh Valley, and it was evident during the team's practice Tuesday that the two knew each other. They were chatting and catching up between just about every drill.

"It's really nice to have Cole here," Willcox said, adding, "to kind of showing me the ropes and to see a familiar face to help get comfortable and acquainted."

Bardreau didn't hold back from complementing his former collegiate teammate, painting the picture of what Willcox is like & the type of game he brings to the rink.

"One of the best guys I have ever played with," Bardreau said of Willcox. "Not so much of an offensive guy, just steady eddy guy and one of those guys you can really rely on. I think he's going to really help us with our consistency. I can't say enough about him."

Willcox described himself as a steady stay-at-home type defender that moves the puck well and can jump up in the offensive zone and make plays when needed. Growing up, he had quite a role model that he followed closely - none other than longtime Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

"The way he goes about his business off the ice and obviously on the ice, his game speaks for itself," Wil;cox said of growing up watching Lidstrom play. "He was a terrific player for 20 years. Just an awesome player," he added, explaining he tries to model certain aspects of his game to that of Lidstrom's.

The Surrey, British Columbia native still has plenty to get acclimated to at the AHL level after just a pair of practices with Lehigh Valley, but with the Phantoms out of the playoff race it's an opportunity for the organization to get a free look at what Willcox can provide at the pro level before his entry-level contract kicks in next fall.

"At some point. I want to get him comfortable with our system play," head coach Scott Gordon said on Tuesday when asked if/when Willcox will get into game action. "To just come in and play right away, he hadn't skated in probably a week. There are parts of the game we want to give him some time to get acclimated to. We'll see how that goes."

With 10 games left on the schedule entering this weekend, it seems more like when than if Willcox's debut will come this season. While it's unlikely he'll get into a game this weekend, a week of practice before a pair of games in Newfoundland, Canada next weekend against the St. John's IceCaps could mark Willcox's pro debut.

"It would be huge just to get that experience this last stretch, so when I come in next fall I'm ready to go, comfortable and know kind of how things work," Willcox said of what it would mean to him to make his pro debut with the Phantoms this spring.  "Try to leave a good first impression so they have something to expect when I'm back and have a chance to prove myself here early on."


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