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Get to know Morgan Rielly

by Travis Betts / New York Islanders
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Defenseman Morgan Rielly was having a breakout 2011-12 campaign for the Western Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Warriors when a torn ACL cost him the majority of the season. The 6’0”, 190-pound blueliner posted an impressive 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 18 games, playing only one regular season game after November. Rielly returned in April to play five playoff games for the Warriors, scoring three points.

Rielly has earned respect for his passing and skating ability, but NHL Central Scouting’s Blair MacDonald points to another attribute when assessing the West Vancouver, BC native: “He's like a chess player; he's thinking one or two moves ahead. He sees stuff coming that a lot of players don't see.”

Rielly took time out of his schedule to chat with about the strong corps of defensemen in this year’s draft, as well as recovering from his knee injury. How would you describe your game to someone who has never seen you play before?

Morgan Rielly: I’m a two-way defenseman, a good skater, I have good puck skills and I can play on the power play.

NYI: How frustrating was it for you to go down with the knee injury last season?

MR: It was pretty hard. It’s not exactly how I drew up my draft year, but it’s an aspect of the game, and after I had my operation completed, it was all about the rehab and I came back. I was happy to get the opportunity to play again.

NYI: Because of the injury, did you come to the combine on a mission to prove to everybody that you were healthy?

Five things to know about Morgan Rielly

1. In 2010-11, Rielly led the Moose Jaw Warriors in rookie scoring and was second among team defensemen with 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 65 games.

He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, scoring three points in seven games.

In 2009-10, he led all SMAAAHL (Saskatchewan Midget league) defensemen with 55 points (18 goals, 37 assists), and was named the co-MVP of the Notre Dame Hounds. He helped lead the team to a 2010 Canadian National Midget Championship.

He lists his father, Andy, who played in the BCHL in the 1970s, as the biggest influence on his career.

His favorite television shows include The Big Bang Theory and Entourage. His favorite cartoon character is the Road Runner.

MR: Yeah, I think so. I came to Toronto to try to prove that I was strong in my knee, and I was confident. I’m pretty sure that I took care of business, and I’m pretty happy with how I performed.

NYI: What expectations do you have coming into the draft?

MR: I don’t really have any expectations coming into the draft. I just want to enjoy it and have a good time along the way.

NYI: There’s a lot of good defensemen in this draft, especially from the WHL. What sets you apart and makes you different?

MR: The aspect of my game that I would consider my strongest would have to be my skating and my speed.

NYI: Who is your favorite NHL player?

MR: My favorite player right now is Kris Letang from the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s a strong skater, a two-way defenseman and he’s pretty fun to watch.

NYI: What kinds of things are you going to do to get ready for your first training camp, wherever it may be?

MR: I’m going to keep training off the ice and on the ice, trying to get bigger and stronger.

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