Morgan Rielly, Defense (Left) Moose Jaw Warriors, Western Hockey League 6'0" 195 Pounds, 3/9/1994
A skilled offensive defenseman with elite skating ability...season cut short because of a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, although he came back late in the season...dangerous top gear and wonderful directional mobility...good feet allow him to maneuver in tight quarters...one of the best, if not the best, puck movers in the Draft...excellent first pass...innate ability to know when to pass or hold onto the puck...great vision...plays with great poise, which allows him to create plays by waiting out defenders...reads the play well while defending...uses his stick to defend and clog up passing lanes...size isn't optimal considering the forwards he'll have to play against at the NHL level...decision making in his own zone can be sketchy...can be exposed by forecheckers as he tries to move the puck out of the defensive zone...Quarterbacks a power play with aplomb...there will be lingering questions surrounding his recovery from the knee injury, especially for a skater of his capacity...still a bit unrefined in his own end.
Why Rielly at 7?:
Dan: He is similar to Jonas Brodin in a lot of ways, however where he is more offensively advanced than Brodin, he gives up the ability to defend. He is a superb skater and moves the puck so well (a truly underrated trait, one the current edition of the Minnesota Wild lack, and it showed at times when they'd get repeatedly hemmed in their own end because they couldn't get out of it) but also would give us an offensive threat that hasn't been there since Brent Burns was traded- a dangerous presence like Morgan Rielly would work so well in a complimentary sense with the skilled forwards up front, because each would cause defenders and the opposing Coach to effectively pick their poison- who to key in on? The questions will be there about his knee, but that's what the combine and the subsequent interviews and medical testing in the days leading up to the Entry Draft are for. There are some reservations about him defensively, but lets not forget he's far from a finished product; you look at who will get to work with him if he does become a Minnesota Wild property- John Torchetti and his staff in Houston, along with former NHL defensemen Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor who man the bench in St. Paul- guys who can teach Rielly the nuances of being a professional defenseman.
Nate: Morgan Rielly is a player who could be a next-level guy and someone Minnesota desperately would love to have on their blue line. Dan hit the nail on the head with a Brent Burns comparison - Rielly has the offensive capability to move the puck and make the lives of the top-six that much easier - and the defenseman is one of the top two PMDs available.
However, not playing since November in a draft year will bring up questions for someone who has top 10 talent. There isn't as much to look at because he did not get a chance to prove his worth with Moose Jaw for an entire season (although putting up a PPG pace as a D against 19 and 20 year-old players is no easy feat) and if anything, being out raises the level of speculation. It's similar to Jared Cowen, another WHL defenseman who injured his knee in his draft year in 2009 and was drafted in the top ten by the Ottawa Senators (who had Brent Flahr working for them at the time). Rielly's knee didn't look to bother him at the combine and helped gauge a better view of his status recovering from a torn ACL. That will make all the difference as mobility, something which does not always come back from major knee surgery, will play a role in drafting Rielly.
Regardless, Morgan has the ceiling of a top-three pick but also carries a greater risk of under-performing. How big of a risk he is to reach that ceiling will make all the difference.
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