In a Toronto Maple Leafs season with few bright spots, defenseman Morgan Rielly has risen as an up and coming star on the blue line. Rielly has arguably been the Leafs’ best and most consistent player, let alone their best defenseman. His strong play this year has fans excited about his future.
However, we have to ask: Is Morgan Rielly the real deal?
Rielly was taken 5th overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2012 NHL draft despite missing almost his entire draft season with a devestating leg injury. With the injury, scouts were unsure of where he’d go on the board and many believed he’d fall outside of the top-15. However, the Maple Leafs stepped up and took the Canadian defenseman from the WHL.
In just his second season on the Leafs’ blue line, he has become one of just 50 NHL defenseman under the age of 22 who to have played 50 games this season and one of only 12 whom are averaging 20-plus minutes a night in those games. He’s among some of the top young defenseman in Aaron Ekblad, Jacob Trouba and Justin Faulk in that regard. Needless to say he’s impressed on the ice in that category alone.
In terms of the Leafs, he leads all defensemen with 8 goals and is tied with Dion Phaneuf for the lead in points for a blueliner with 28. While that is well off the league leader’s pace, it’s pretty good to see a 21 year-old atop the leaderboard in Toronto. Not to mention, since the beginning of the Leafs callapse, Rielly has a team high 16 points since January 19.
To put his first two seasons with the Leafs into perspective, he has had similar numbers as defencemen Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Brent Burns and Jay Bouwmeester. Not horrible company to be surrounded by as a sophomore. One has to think if the Leafs had been a better team over his first two seasons and Rielly had been given more coaching that his point totals would be even higher than.
Rielly’s elite skating and skill made him one of the only untouchables heading into trade deadline on the Leafs’ roster. His skating stride is simply beautiful. Every time he heads up the ice with a rush of stem you know he’s going to do something special and often times you see him circling around the offencive zone with an opponent well behind. Remarkbly, when it looks like almost every other Leafs player has quit on another brutal season, Rielly is still busting his butt night after night and almost never takes a shift off. He’s got the character of a leader and the skills too one day become an elite NHL defenseman.
Remarkably, Rielly has been able to survive a rough season in Toronto both on and off the ice and is still very excited for his future with the team. He has stayed positive, grown into bigger roles and improved his game in the last two seasons. That has many fans excited about his future.
In hockey, natural talent can only take you so far. Every player in the NHL was one of the best players in their local towns and on thier teams and thus they ended up going far in their careers. However, it’s on the players to take that natural talent and work to the next level. Morgan Rielly appears to posses that type of drive.
At just 21 years of age, Rielly has quickly become one of the Leafs best and most reliable defencemen. He’s shown great maturity, improved his game greatly, grown into bigger roles and is facing some of the best opposition on a nightly basis.
There is no doubt that the Leafs won’t be letting this budding superstar go anywhere in the near future. He’s a home-grown talent with the capability to evolve into a team leader and a high-end NHL defenseman. Rielly is a student of the game who loves to accomplish new milestones and beat his personal bests. He’s a kid who doesn’t play like a kid and is always looking to improve his game.
So is Morgan Rielly the real deal?
It’s hard to make such a definitive decision after only two years on one of the leagues worst teams. Tyler Myers looked great in Buffalo early on before hitting a wall and many young and promising defenseman cool off after their first couple of seasons. Rielly has a sparkle in his eye, a burst of excitement that is rare in young defencemen.
He wasn’t hesitant with the puck this season, he did not second guess himself, he was a calm and cool and has quickly become a reliable defenseman. His skill is second to none on this current Leafs squad and he has so much potential to break down any wall in front of him.
He’s a special player who players and acts far beyond his years. If there is a Leafs player on this current roster with the potential to be an NHL superstar it is Morgan Rielly. If he keeps doing what he’s been doing there is little doubt he could become one of the NHL’s elite defencemen in a very short time. The Toronto Maple Leafs have found a gem and need to hold him very close.