With the 5th overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs had an opportunity to add an impact player that could be a significant part of their core for years to come.
With highly regarded forwards such as Mikhail Grigorenko and Filip Forsberg still available, the Leafs opted to select Morgan Rielly, an offensive defenceman for the Moose Jaw Warriors. The selection raised some eyebrows, given the Leafs need for talented scorers in the system, and Brian Burke's always incendiary comments certainly didn't help matters.
Putting aside people's personal opinions on the pick, Rielly is an incredibly talented young defenceman (
WHO WILL BE GIVEN PROPER DEVELOPMENT TIME TO SUCCEED!!!!!); he's an excellent skater and able to jumpstart a rush with strong breakout passes or a quick rush up ice.
Rielly makes his debut on our list at #8.
Rielly lost the majority of his draft season due to a serious knee injury (part of the injury curse that apparently hung over most of the 2012 Draft class), but in the games he did play he was excellent. He averaged a point a game (a simply remarakable total for a defenceman) scoring 18 points in 18 games before getting injured. Rielly was able to return in the playoffs and play well (and has played well in pre-season tournaments this summer), which should give Leaf fans cause for optimism that the knee injury will not hamper his development.
With a crowded blueline and most of last season in the WHL lost to his injury, the NHL likely isn't in the cards for Rielly this year. This is a good thing because as we've learned far too many times RUSHING DEFENCE TO THE NHL IS BAD. Rielly should be given an opportunity to dominate the WHL, maybe even take a key role for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, and if Moose Jaw sucks, join the Toronto Marlies for a few games to get a taste of the AHL.
|Prior Rank||JP Nikota||PPP||Chemmy||SkinnyFish||birky||Plea From A Cat Named Felix||clrkaitken||Rank|
WIthout a long resume to compare against other players in the organization, Rielly was an extremely difficult player to rank. As far as his potential goes, Rielly has the potential to be a future power play quarterback and top three defenceman, the kind of guy that teams perennially covet. He and Jake Gardiner will push each other to take on this role. But at just 18 years old, Rielly is a long long way from reaching his potential, and through no fault of his own, he lost much of his draft season to his injury, and so many people aren't yet sure what to make of him.
As we've seen with most of the rankings, there are two schools of thought; one group of voters places a premium on high-end potential; a player who is still developing but projects to be a major piece of the Leafs future (in a top-six forward or top-four defence role) has been given significant boosts in the rankings, whereas for others they've valued NHL readiness. It's nice that a player might someday become a key NHL player, but they are a long way away from that point, and in the meantime they must pass a number of players vying for NHL jobs on the depth chart.
As you can see, PPP and JP Nikota tend to follow the second strategy when compiling their list, and have Rielly ranked significantly lower than everyone else, who put him in or around the top 5.
While I personally had him at #5 on the merit of his potential, I see the argument to maybe hold him back until we get a better sense of what kind of player he is. #8 is a little low for my personal taste but I think it's representative of his place within the organization. The seven players ranked above hm are all NHL regulars (or should be starting this season), which sort of defaults Rielly to the position of the Leafs' best player outside of the NHL, which is a title I don't think many would argue with.