Morgan Rielly is a defenseman, but it’s his offensive abilities that have scouts salivating at what he could bring to a National Hockey League club.
The 18-year-old Vancouver native is yet another one of the top blueliners available in the most defensively deep draft since 2008, and it’s his offensive upside that sets him apart from the field.
How does Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes director of amateur scouting, describe Rielly?
“Dynamic. Explosive. Lots of offensive dimension,” he said. “We probably haven’t seen the best of him this year.”
Like fellow top prospect Alex Galchenyuk (profiled here), Rielly’s draft stock was sent into flux after he suffered a torn ACL. The injury happened in early November, 18 games into the Moose Jaw Warriors’ (Western Hockey League) regular season, and at first, he was only expected to miss a few weeks.
On the first of December, however, he was having surgery to repair the torn knee ligament.
More than four months later and after being turned down in the first two rounds of the WHL playoffs, Rielly returned for the Eastern Conference Final. The Warriors were eliminated in five games by the eventual WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings, and Rielly recorded three assists.
|HOMETOWN: VANCOUVER, B.C. |
|HEIGHT: 6-0 |
|WEIGHT: 190 |
|BIRTHDAY: MARCH 9, 1994 (AGE 18) |
“He came back in the playoffs, and he was probably just starting to hit his stride when they were eliminated,” MacDonald said.
Some scouts believe that had it not been for his injury, Rielly would have been the top defensive selection on draft day. The same was surmised about Galchenyuk in regards to competing with Nail Yakupov for the top forward selection.
Despite the injury setback, Rielly didn’t see his draft stock falter too much. He was ranked fifth at the midterm by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service and remained at fifth in the group’s final evaluation.
Before being sidelined with the injury, Rielly was a point-per-game producer, recording 18 points (3g, 15a) in as many games. The 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman had 6 goals and 22 assists (28 points) in his first season with Moose Jaw.
Rielly projects to be a playmaking, power play quarterback in the NHL, as he possesses the necessary poise, patience and vision with the puck. He also has the right dosage of speed, agility, mobility and puckhandling skills that allow him to join an offensive attack and make end-to-end rushes. Scouts compare his style of play to that of Erik Karlsson, who was drafted 15th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 2008 and notched 78 points (19g, 59a) with the Sens in the 2011-12 season.
“[Rielly] is an offensive-defenseman. He’s a great skater,” MacDonald said. “He really likes to join the attack, and he’s a very proactive player on the attack.”
Rielly might slip on the draft board as teams begin to doubt how the injury might affect his agility and playmaking skills, despite his good showing at the annual scouting combine. But, don’t be surprised to see him selected just outside of the top 10, if not inside of it.
Would Carolina be a suitor? The organization has its fair share of puck-moving offensive-defensemen, but Rielly might prove to be too good of an asset to overlook.