The NHL Season is quickly approaching, with that in mind we’re going to take a look at who is (likely) to be on the Leafs roster come October 1 in Montreal. Contract numbers via CapGeek.com; Regular Stats via Hockey-reference.com; Nerd stats via behindthenet.ca. For the rest of our Player Previews go here.
Morgan Rielly, No. 10, defense| 6’1″, 205 LBS | 19-years old.
ToT Approved Nicknames:
Drafted 5th overall in 2012 by the Maple Leafs
3-year entry-level contract; does not kick in until he plays 10+ games in a season
2012/2013 Stats (WHL with Moose Jaw):
60 GP 12 Goals 42 Assists 54 Points
You Oughta Know:
Despite the fact that he was one of the best players in the WHL Morgan Rielly’s Moose Jaw Warriors did not make the playoffs. Luckily for the Leafs this meant he could play 14 games for the Toronto Marlies, where he scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 14 games where he did not look out of place.
Morgan Rielly showed why he was the 5th pick in the 2012 draft with his performance in the WHL last season, where he accumulated 54 points in 60 games patrolling the blue line for the Moose Jaw Warriors. Rielly is the most hyped defensive prospect for the Leafs since the likes of Luke Schenn, but unlike Schenn, Rielly has the chance to be a truly special player.
Rielly has many assets that separate him from his contemporaries, his mobility, vision, puck handling and playmaking are all skills that can be rated as elite or near elite. He has solid positioning is solid and will continue to develop defensively as he is thrust into more challenging scenarios (see not destroying overmatched teenagers in the CHL). Rielly has showed that he is not a once dimensional player and will be able to be relied upon in all situations.
This is a key distinction from the aforementioned Schenn, a defenseman with little offensive flair. Without any offensive ability, a defenseman has very little opportunity to become on of the league’s elite. From the looks of things, Rielly has the opportunity to become just that.
[H/T to Dobber Prospects for the Scouting Report]
What to Expect:
Rielly is going to be in tough to make the Maple Leafs blue line this season. While there is very little doubt that Rielly has the ability to play in the NHL as a 19-year old, the Maple Leafs actually have depth on the back-end for the first time in recent memory. Barring a trade, expect Rielly to break camp with the Maple Leafs, but only play in the 9 games he has available until his entry-level deal kicks in.
Rielly would likely be best served by playing a large role against increased competition in the AHL this season, but due to his age he will have to be sent back to the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL, where he will be the best player on the ice almost every night. While I would love to see Rielly and his skill set in a Leafs uniform every night this season, there is simply no room for him in the team’s top 4, and his development would be best served through a heavy workload wherever he is playing.
While it will be disappointing for Leafs fans when Rielly is sent back to Junior (even if it is for the best), we can look forward to watching him as a member of Team Canada at the WJHC in Malmö, Sweden. As a returning 19-year old, Rielly will likely be leaned on to anchor Canada’s blue line, it will be a great opportunity for Leafs fans to see Rielly’s progress as he matches up against (relatively) top competition.