Morgan Rielly was drafted 5th overall in 2012 by the Toronto Maple Leafs and was immediately thrown into deep waters. At the end of his WHL season in 2013 he was called up to the Toronto Marlies and played 14 games before the end of the season, and then 8 more in the playoffs where he collected 1 goal in 8 games. The next year he made the Leafs out of training camp and hasn’t looked back since. After the Phaneuf trade Rielly has become the #1 defenseman for the Maple Leafs playing well over 20 mins a night, maybe even before he was ready. In today’s NHL sometimes its sink or swim and Rielly proved he can swim. Lets take a look at the PROS and CONS for Morgan Rielly and see what is in store in his future.
Morgan can skate like the wind! On the rush he seems to blow through the neutral zone and cause opposing defenseman to be caught standing still, or it seems like they are as he skates into the offensive zone.
Rielly seems to be able to make passes that other just can’t. Those seeing eye type pass through 5 sticks and skates to find a player down low, or on the rush knowing who is the right guy to pass to at the right time.
Overall Hockey IQ:
Rielly has turned from an offensive defenseman to more of a 2 way guy. Since coming to the NHL he has really focused on improving his defensive game, he has slowly got better as the years have passed and he is at the point where you don’t need to worry about him while he’s in the defensive zone. Which is more than I can say about the rest of the Leafs defense. He makes the right plays in both the defensive and offensive zones and is Babcocks go to in all situations.
Babcock loves Rielly, he can play him in every situation like power play, penalty kill, left or right side of the ice. Being that versatile means that others that aren’t can be played in better positions on the ice that will help the team.
To clarify i don’t think he has many issues handling the puck, so don’t get all upset over what comes next… But I notice over and over during his rushes up the ice that once he crosses the blue line he loses control. Now most might think that that’s hockey IQ and not knowing what to do with the puck, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think his puck skills in the offensive zone(on the rush) are lacking. Compare him to guys like Letang and Karlsson who if they don’t have a play can skate through the whole zone not worrying about losing the puck and then make a play once they’ve got some room. Rielly at this moment is obviously not at their level and seems to get “flustered” a bit on the rush, almost like he’s too fast for his own good. With a slight improvement to his puck handling Rielly will be even more dangerous and be able to attack the zone much more effectively.
To clarify by age I mean experience. Even though this will be his 4th pro season he is still only 22. This is his 1st year being the go to man on the back end. As he gets older that experience grows with him and he will become even more comfortable. Imagine him at 25… my goodness.
This is something I notice that will most likely never change, his style of play doesn’t support him to be a big hitter or even out muscle a lot of guys. He uses his speed and skill to get ahead of players, that isn’t bad but at 6’1 205 lbs that could be something that if utilized would make opposing players nervous to come in on him.
Morgan Rielly is a top pairing 1/2 defenseman at only 22 years old. With time he will become even better and be a cornerstone of this leafs organization for 10-15 years. Even on the poor defensive Leafs team his corsi numbers are still good at 51.54 CF% which means the team with him on the ice is getting more offensive chances then having to defend. Hopefully Leafs management can give him some support and find him a defensive 2-3 defenseman to play along side him for the next decade.
Let me know what you think about Rielly! Comment below or on Facebook or tweet me @TMLHockeytlk