21-Year-Old Defenseman – Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly Contract Information:
Signed a three-year, entry level contract with the Maple Leafs in August 2012.
Rielly's emergence as an elite defender continued Saturday with a two-point performance in a 3-2 shootout loss to Montreal. He was involved in all the offense and continued to dominate in a shutdown role.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
The training wheels are off -- the Leafs expect this kid to haul a heavy load this season, and he's more than up to the challenge. He has the best skillset on the Leafs' blue line, and his acceleration is as sweet as a Porsche. Rielly makes lots of high-percentage plays and he can recover and get back in the play when he doesn't. The Leafs will turn him loose as the quarterback on their second power-play unit. His even-strength ice time will be better insulated by the presence of two new veteran stay-at-home types, Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak. This season should be a nice stepping-stone to a high-octane future. Expect a decent jump in his output from last year, with the possibility of finishing among the league's top-30 scorers from the blue line. That sort of production would make him a must-own in standard formats and an even more valuable chip in dynasty formats.
Rielly is a superb skater and an elite offensive defender who controlled the ice and tallied nearly a point-per-game in the Western Hockey League last year. But the Leafs are caught in a quandary with him -- he's too good for junior, but not old enough to continue his development in the AHL. So the Leafs will be forced to make a hard decision come training camp -- keep him and risk him being overwhelmed in the hottest hockey spotlight in the NHL or return him to junior where he has nothing left to prove (or learn). He's an elite keeper who could some day net 60 points. But 19-year-old defenders rarely excel in the NHL. Single-year owners should wisely leave him undrafted and snag him off the wire if he takes off at any point. Keeper leaguers? You know what to do.
Rielly might have been the 2012 draft’s top offensive defender had it not been for a blown ACL that limited him to just 18 games this past season. But, those 18 games showcased his elite skating, vision and skill – he scored at a point-per-game pace. Rielly has some serious work to do in his own zone, but that can be forgiven in a future fantasy superstar. Yep, you read that right. Pick him if you're in a keeper league and need a future Duncan Keith-Brian Leetch type. Hey, there's even a chance Rielly might crack the Buds' lineup right out of camp. However, he'll be far better served by heading back to junior and dominating in the WHL and at the World Junior tourney.