Hoo boy, we’re so close to the top 5 I can smell it. And to guide us into the top 5 is the soon-to-be former Moose Jaw Warrior, Morgan Rielly. In a draft full of highly touted defensemen, Rielly is one of the few that are touted most highly (totally made sense). Rielly looked to be on pace to having a big 2012 before a torn ACL derailed his season. Rielly had 18 points in 18 games for the Warriors before the injury would end his regular season but would return for the playoffs for the Eastern Conference finals against Edmonton. In five games, Rielly would notch 3 assists with a minus-1 rating.
Rielly’s international experience was limited to his 2010-2011 season due to his injury. Rielly skated for Canada at the U18 World Championships, despite being just 16-years-old at the time, and would also skate for Canada Pacific in the U17 World Hockey Challenge. In the U18 tourny, Rielly would score 2 goals and add an assist in 7 games on Canada’s path to a fourth place finish. For Canada Pacific he put up 5 points in six games to go along with 4 penalty minutes.
Weight: 190 pounds
Born: March 9, 1994
What People In The Know Know
His speed is good with a dangerous top gear and Rielly can be especially impressive from a standstill with his acceleration, four-way mobility, and his elusive quickness. He can also really make things happen on a power play with his footwork and ability to maneuver in tight spaces. Rielly is a very skilled offensive player with plus puck skills and passing ability who can dangle an opponent out of his skates or thread a bullet pass through a tight lane. He creates a lot with his individual ability but much more so with his hockey sense and ability to control the flow. Rielly is very aware of his time and space and rarely seems pressured when making plays.
Put it this way — nobody is going to question the kid’s heart or desire. After rolling through the first 18 games of the WHL season at a point-a-game clip (3G-15A), the highly-touted rearguard tore his ACL, an injury many figured would be the end to his season.
Rielly had other plans.
Months of rigorous rehab and some major lobbying saw him return for Moose Jaw’s Eastern Conference final series against Edmonton. Though the Warriors lost in five games, Rielly managed to put up six points and confirmed to scouts everything what they thought prior to the injury — that he’s one of the best blueliners in this draft class.
Rielly ended up the second-ranked North American defenseman by Central Scouting, behind Everett’s Ryan Murray.
I’ve seen Rielly do things on the ice that nobody else was doing. I saw him make those little passes to guys who weren’t expecting the puck to get there. He’s the type of player who can lead the rush and he’ll be the first guy back. I think his creativity makes him one of the top players in the league. He’s like a chess player; he’s thinking one or two moves ahead. He sees stuff coming that a lot of players don’t see.
Part of the disastrous injury cohort, Rielly was still trying a valiant comeback as Moose Jaw progressed through the WHL playoffs.
A torn ACL was Rielly’s obstacle, but fortunately his fans had seen enough in the games he did suit up for.
“This guy’s dynamic,” said one scout. “Sort of like a Duncan Keith – good skater. It’s a shame he got hurt. A lot of scouts don’t watch the underage year.”
Rielly is calm under pressure and an excellent passer and skater. As a member of Saskatchewan’s Notre Dame Hounds, he helped that vaunted program to a provincial midget title and the national Telus Cup in 2010.
Part of the Big Five group of WHL blueliners, Rielly is best known for what another scout called “fearless playmaking.” Thankfully, he hit all the elite events before his injury, with appearances at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and the NHL Research and Development Camp during the summer.
From The Horse’s Mouth
Rielly is undeniably one of the top prospects, defensive or otherwise, in the draft (obviously, or else we wouldn’t be here right now) and there is no one who doubts his skills or abilities. However, there is a glut of defensemen in this draft and the reality is that the teams at the top of the draft order are not going to all draft defensemen. For this reason, coupled with the fact that scouts didn’t really get a good look at him this year, I think we’ll see Rielly drop in the draft a little bit – still in the top 10 but with no chance to go in the top 5.
NHL Central Scouting currently has Rielly ranked fifth amongst North American skaters and, as I said, I’d expect to see Rielly come off the board somewhere in the bottom third of the top 10 which is not a knock on an obvious talent. Whoever he slips to will be glad he did.