Senior defenseman Reece Willcox has signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers and will report to their AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms, according to a Flyers’ press release.
“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” an emotional Willcox said. “I’ve been getting a lot of texts from family and friends, but until the first game I don’t think it’ll hit me that I’m playing the sport I love for a living.”
The 22-year-old was selected in the fifth round — 141st overall — of the the 2012 NHL entry-level draft. He served as a captain this past season, recording two goals and 11 assists in his final campaign for Cornell.
“I made some great friendships that will last a lifetime,” Willcox said. “Winning the Ivy League championship as a sophomore was one of the big highlights.”
A stay-at-home defenseman, Willcox was also named to the All-Ivy first team this past season and led the Red to the ECAC quarterfinals before dropping a three-game best-of-three series to Quinnipiac.
“Defensively it’s really going to help coming from the Cornell program,” Willcox said. “Over my four years it has really benefited me being deployed against the top lines.”
Over his four seasons with Cornell, Willcox notched five goals and 29 assists during his time and was lauded for his defensive presence, which anchored the Red’s defensive core.
The 6-foot-4 defenseman will be reunited with former Cornellian forward Cole Bardreau ’15, who completed his tenure at Cornell during the 2014-15 season.
“I’m excited to have someone like [Bardreau] who I have played with for three years,” Willcox said. “We’ve been talking on and off throughout the years, but it’s been really helpful having him to talk to.”
While his NHL deal does not kick in until the beginning of next season, Willcox will be on an amateur tryout contract with the Phantoms for the remainder of the season.
“I don’t really know what to expect yet,” he said. “These guys are a lot older now and have years of experience.”
Even though Willcox’s departure from Cornell spells a big hit to the defensive core, he is confident about the future of the team.
“There are a couple of freshmen whose future is bright, like Angello, Vanderlaan and McCrea,” he said. “It will be great to see how they develop. The junior class, too, is full of great leaders who will do a wonderful job as seniors.”