Thursday, February 16, 2012

Officially On The Radar: Morgan Rielly

The 2012 NHL Draft class has been famous for two main things.

1. A large haul of impressive defenceman.

2. Severe injuries to top prospects.

Morgan Rielly fits into both of those categories. Luckily for me, I had the chance to see Rielly 8 times live last season when he was a 16 year old rookie for the Moose Jaw Warriors and another 2 times live this year before he suffered a severe ACL injury in early November.

Rielly is surely not alone in the injury category as approximately a dozen top ranked 2012 draft prospects have been hurt at various times this season.

The one big question many will have with Rielly's recovery is if his knee injury will effect his skating. His mobility on the ice is clearly his number trait as a defender as he's very agile, has great acceleration and has the ability to take extra risks offensively because he has the skating stride to get him back to the blueline if needed.

So far, it doesn't look like the injury has altered his draft stock. On Bob McKenzie's preseason ranking, Rielly was listed at 7th overall among 2012 eligible players. In his latest midseason ranking had him 8th. That's not too bad considering the kid hasn't laced up his skates and played a game since November 6th, a game where he had 2 assists before getting hurt.

Central Scouting also continues to view Rielly very positively, having him holding steady at 5th overall in their North American rankings.

I have my concerns about how he will recover, but if he can come back 100% healthy and regain his old form, there is a ton to like about this kid. He's listed at 6'0 and I wish he was just a bit bigger, but he's not small by any stretch.

As mentioned, his offensive ability is right near the top of the class in regards to blueliners. He had 18 points in 18 games before being hurt this year and was well on his way to improving on his career high of 28 points, set as a 16 year old last year.

Away from the puck he had also grown leaps and bounds. As a 16 year old he often looked pretty lost in his own zone, running around a bit and losing one on one battles. That seemed to change this year. He's got a great stick and was really learning to use his added strength more to go along with his improving positioning.

There's no doubt that when it's all said and done and some team drafts Rielly inside the top 10-12 in the NHL draft, they are going to get a hell of a player. He might not have the poise of Ryan Murray or the explosiveness of Mathew Dumba, but he's a great offensive defenceman who was well on his way to proving himself in his own zone.

Despite a tough injury this year, Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors is Officially On The Radar.