While a lot of rookies have been haunted by a ‘sophomore jinx,’ that hasn’t been the case for Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly
Typically known for his offensive abilities, Rielly has worked on his shot throughout the course of the season. His minutes have increased, while he currently leads the team’s defence in shots on goal (30) and points (4).
“I want to try to be well rounded, play well defensively and offensively,” said Rielly. “There are some players in the league right now that are capable of doing that and I think that’s what I want to be.”
Rielly has settled into a defence pairing with Roman Polak, while getting his power-play opportunities with Jake Gardiner.
“I think it’s a confidence,” said Polak with what sets apart players who handle their second year. “Every game isn’t going to be a great game, you just have to develop that. If you make a little mistake, it doesn’t matter.”
Selected 5th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, then Leafs GM Brian Burke said they pegged him first in their depth chart. He’s met every expectation that has been set forth by management and that will continue to progress.
“The safer way to go is to temper expectations and allow a young player to feel not as much pressure from coaching staff and management that he has to be that much better than he was a year before,” said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. “Just look at what he did last year, if he can duplicate that this year, that would be an accomplishment.”
Rielly has found a particular knack for being able to carry the puck out of the zone. With heavy emphasis on puck-control this season, Rielly has been an excellent of example of how control the pace of the game.
On his way to being healed from a gruesome eye injury, David Clarkson has removed the face shield and wore a visor during Thursday’s practice.
“It was tough looking down because it would fog up and when the puck was in your feet, you had to look through plastic holes,” Clarkson said of the shield. “I think going to the visor I can see a little bit better, it still fogs up and takes time to get used to but I can’t complain.”
Clarkson has sported a helmet without any eye protection for the bulk of his NHL career. The adjustment hasn’t seemed to deter him, performing much better than he had during his first year as Leaf. Still, Clarkson plans to remove the visor when his eye fully heals up.
“At the end of the day I’m going to go back to fighting and doing the things I’ve always done” Clarkson said. “I don’t feel I can do that with that on.”
It’s not clear if Clarkson will be wearing a visor or full face shield in Columbus on Friday.
Leafs Lines from Practice