So I said I would be writing updates on the 5th round draft pick from time to time and now seems as good a time as any to write about what I've seen from the stands at Lynah Rink. Reece Willcox has been getting far more playing time than I initially expected, being placed on the second defensive pairing with Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Nick D'Agostino. The two form a very effective puck moving pair, although with D'Ag's gambling tendencies, Willcox is forced to play more conservatively. However he has generally been effective moving the puck at the point, and has not had many damaging blue line turnovers, which is probably why he has seen so much time on the Big Red's second power play unit. Willcox has only two assists to show so far, but with his passing skills and time on the power play there should be more to come. He's not the fastest skater but he's smooth and a joy to watch.
The major offensive issue I see with Willcox is a hesitancy to shoot, especially on the powerplay, while this is somewhat offset by his tendency to always be moving the puck, changing angles through skating or passing (somewhat of a rarity in college, where powerplays are often far too stagnant and uncreative), it would be nice to see him flick a few more wristers or one timers on net and see what happens.
Defensivley, he seems pretty solid for a freshman. Good in transition, he takes away the passing lane and lets Iles do what needs to be done in net. Willcox has a big frame and he's not afraid to use it at all. A few of the biggest hits this season have come from the British Columbia native. At the same time, he is very disciplined, having recieved only two penalty minutes so far this season. He gets some time on the kill, but hasn't really stood out in this discipline. No big mistakes on the kill, usually in good position, but not a game changing penalty kill threat.
On his overall play, I would give mixed reviews. Willcox, like much of the Big Red, has been up and down so far this season. He has had games, like last night against Michigan in MSG or the opening weekend against Colorado College at Lynah, where he has looked brilliant. At the same time, there have been games such as the home game against Colgate, the game against Princeton at Hobey Baker, and the game against Harvard at Lynah where his play has left something to be desired. Coach Schafer clearly sees it fit to continue playing Willcox over top defensive recruit and USNTDPer Gavin Stoick, so he has apparently impressed the coaching staff.
Obviously it is too soon to tell only nine games into a freshman's career what kind of player he will be, but Willcox has shown exciting flashes of potential, along with the typical freshman mistakes. If Willcox more consistently plays at the level that has excited the fans, he has potential to be a real steal in the fifth round. I'm no scout, but I would probably put his max potential at second pairing defense. That said, I'm just a fan sitting in the student section with the rest of the Lynah Faithful, so I would take my conclusions with a grain of salt, especially after only nine games.