Toronto Maple Leafs: Morgan Rielly is quietly having a breakout season

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 6: Morgan Rielly
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 6: Morgan Rielly /

Morgan Rielly is on pace for a career year with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season and it’s been flying under the radar long enough.

It’s time to finally give Morgan Rielly the credit he deserves for the impact he is having with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In a 2017-2018 season filled with headlines about an injured Auston Matthews, concerns about Frederik Andersen in net, and Mitch Marner spending time on the fourth line, not enough time has been spent on the season Morgan Rielly is currently having with the Leafs.

Entering his fifth NHL season it’s easy to forget that Rielly is still only 23-years-old let alone having the best season of his career in Toronto.

Through 19 regular season games Reilly is averaging nearly a point per game with three goals and 13 assists, putting him almost half way towards the career high, 36 points he scored during the 2015-2016 season.

Rielly’s 16 points leads all Leafs defencemen and is tied for second in team scoring with Nazem Kadri behind only Auston Matthews.

Across the NHL, Rielly is among the leagues best, tied for third in scoring among defencemen with St. Louis Blues star Alex Pietrangelo. He is also in the top-10 for power-play points this season with seven.

Along with lighting up the scoreboard Rielly has shown a continued improvement in his possession numbers this season.

Rielly leads all Leafs starting defencemen with a career high Corsi-For Percentage of 53.5 per cent, which is good for fifth highest on the team.

His Corsi-For Percentage is also among the top-25 defencemen in the league when it comes to puck possession.

Not only has Reilly impressed in the stats sheets, he’s also shown more confidence in moving the puck down the ice and creating plays on both sides of the ice. As seen here against the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 6.

As Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston pointed out, Rielly has said the addition of Ron Hainsey as his defensive partner has allowed him to be more effective playing on the left side of the ice.

"“It’s obviously very helpful to play on your natural side and I think when you look at Hainsey and the job he’s been able to do on his off-side it’s that much more impressive,” Rielly said before adding, “He’s a great guy to watch [game film] with. He’s got a good grasp of the game, he’s got a lot of experience in this league, he’s played a long time and obviously that Cup run last year has done wonders for his outlook on the game [after] playing with some of the best players in the world.”"

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Being able to play where he is most comfortable while being paired with a stay at home defender like Hainsey has allowed Rielly to become more comfortable offensively while he continues to develop his skills defensively.

He continues to show why the Leafs took him fifth overall in the 2012 NHL draft and why the signed him to a six-year contract extension last year worth $30-million.

If Rielly somehow manages to keep his blazing start going past the quarter mark of the season then we could start to see his name pop up as a possible Norris Trophy nominee.

Next: Five logical trade partners to help improve the Leafs

What do you think of Rielly’s progress this season and impact so far on the blueline? Let us know in the comments.