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Meet the Newest Leaf: Morgan Rielly

The Toronto Maple Leafs chose to add some depth to their blueline Friday night at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center, as they selected 6'0", 190 pound 18 year old defenseman Morgan Rielly with their fifth pick in the opening round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Rielly, born in Vancouver, was one of the best skating defensemen available this year and has the potential to be a top offensive blueliner at the pro level. His ability to skate from one end of the ice to the other is incredible, and he has coupled this with very good composure on the powerplay.  He is a defenseman who uses his hard shot from the point to create chances both with the man advantage and at even strength. He is overly aggressive in the offensive end, but possesses a high hockey IQ to know when to take a chance and when not to.

Before suffering his season ending knee injury playing with Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League last season, Rielly appeared to be on pace for an incredible year. He scored t3 goals and added 15 assists to go with a +6 over a period of 18 games before being injured. Rielly returned for the Warriors’ first round playoff series against Regina where he posted three assists in five games and finished with -1 rating.  Rielly was finally ranked fifth amongst North American Skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2012 NHL Draft.

Rielly joined the Moose Jaw Warriors for his first WHL season in 2010-11 and was selected to play for Canada at the 2011 U18 World Junior Championship as a 16-year-old. He also skated for Canada Pacific at the U17 World Hockey Challenge. In 65 games for the East Division champion Warriors he scored six goals with collected 22 assists and was -15 with 21 penalty minutes. Rielly skated in six playoff games for the Warriors and was -3 with six assists.

He dressed in all seven games for Canada at the U18 WJC and scored two goals with one assist and was -3. Canada lost to Russia in the Bronze medal game. In six games for Canada Pacific at the World Hockey Challenge he scored two goals with three assists and had four penalty minutes.  Rielly was selected second overall in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft (by Moose Jaw), and skated for the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds in Saskatchewan. In 43 games he scored 18 goals and collected 37 assists to go with 20 penalty minutes.

Rielly scored seven goals with two assists in 13 playoff games for the Hounds.  And just like top prospect Alex Galchenyuk, who was chose third on Friday night by the Montreal Canadiens, much of Rielly's season last year was spent in the press box due to an ACL injury. Major knee injuries are always frightening, but let's hope this young phenom can bounce back from his injury and get himself playing at a high level again.

If he can stay healthy for the Leafs, Rielly could easily become one of the better scoring defensemen in the NHL for a long time.  While his game is nearly flawless, there are a few things the new Toronto Maple Leaf needs to work on in order to bring his game up to a professional level.  He needs to add some beef over the summer to be a more physical player in his own zone. His top-level athleticism helps him correct any mistakes he makes defensively, and his speed has allowed him to recover well when he's been caught out of position in the past. But, in order for him to be able to complete in the big leagues, Rielly still needs some conditioning to improve defensively.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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