Morgan Rielly is our second-last installation in the Player Profile series. That’s exciting news, because that means the start of the regular season is right around the corner. And it sure seems that few players on the Leafs will play a more important role for the team this season than Rielly, who after a couple of seasons of getting his feet wet in the NHL, seems poised to break out and establish himself as a legitimate top-four defenseman, or perhaps something even greater, in the NHL this year.
Rielly was taken 5th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, most likely in large part due to the fact that he tore his ACL earlier that year and played just 18 regular season games for Moose Jaw of the WHL. Rielly returned for a handful of playoff games at the end of the year, but the lack of knowledge other teams had on him, mixed in with a general discomfort about the serious injury he had just endured, likely played an important part in helping Rielly fall to the Leafs at #5. The team didn’t do a lot of good things during the Dave Nonis era, but taking a chance on Rielly here was one of them.
Rielly spent the next year back in the WHL making up for lost time, and had a pretty good year doing it. At the end of the 2012-2013 season, Rielly joined the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, which served as a good bridge towards him making the jump to the big club the following year.
So fast forward to present day, and Rielly has two NHL seasons under his belt, both of which he’s shown some immense promise in, and many are hopeful that this just might be the year he takes another leap forward towards become the franchise defenseman this team has lacked since the days of Tomas Kaberle. I fully expect Rielly will take a step forward this year, but how big of a step forward remains to be seen.
Rielly’s got some pretty good numbers.
For combined seasons, from 1917-18 to 2015-16, born from 1918 to 2016,
from 1st to 2nd, from age 19 to 21, in the regular season, playing
, requiring Time on Ice >= 2500 and Time on Ice <= 3500 and Points
Per Game >= .30 and Points Per Game <= .40, sorted by descending
Shots Per Game (AKA historical comparables to the numbers Morgan Rielly has put up so far in his NHL career). Via Hockey-Reference.com.
One could argue he hasn’t reached the point of being a legitimate top-pairing defenseman yet, but the numbers certainly seem to suggest he’s on his way to reaching that potential.
Bottom line: Morgan Rielly is good at hockey.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Maybe this is flawed logic on my part, but I often tend to consider the first couple of seasons in the NHL for a young player to be a bit of a wash in the sense that I consider that player to go through some growing pains. Sure there are some exceptions, but I feel like young players in their first couple of years often have stretches of extreme highs and extreme lows.
I don’t know that we’ve seen that entirely with Rielly – I think he’s been closer to consistently “okay” or “good” – although he did have a pretty strong end to the season last year from what I remember.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Rielly’s gone through his first couple of seasons in the NHL now, and I’m expecting him to establish himself as a legitimate top-four defenseman this season, with room to be even better. Like, I’m expecting Rielly to be a bonafide #2 or #3 defenseman this season (whatever that means), but if he really explodes and establishes himself as a legitimate #1, that won’t surprise me either. I think the bottom line is we can expect Rielly to take another step forward this season, and everything we’ve seen from him in the preseason and the way Babcock likes to use him backs that idea up. So will Rielly be good or great this year? I’m not sure, but the floor for him looks pretty high, and the cieling looks pretty high too. That’s a good thing.
- Bronze medalist for Team Canada Pacific at the 2011 World U-17 Hockey Challenge
- Representative of Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-18 Hockey Championships
- Gold medalist for Team Canada at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament
- Representative of Team Canada at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships
- Representative of Team Canada at the 2014 World Championships