6. LD Morgan Rielly – Moose Jaw (WHL)
DOB: Mar. 9/94 | Shoots: L | Height: 6.00 | Weight: 195lbs TSR Midterm Rank: 5
Morgan Rielly is a pure puck moving defenseman and has a skillset that is paramount to NHL team’s success in the “new” NHL. Rielly is a tremendous skater and has exceptional agility. His ability to rush the puck might be unmatched in this draft and he does a great job of eluding defenders and working his way up the ice with great vision. Rielly also moves the puck with strong poise and does a great job of identifying passing lanes and breaking down the defense.
Unfortunately, like so many NHL prospects this season, Rielly fell victim to the injury bug and suffered a torn ACL early in the season that limited him to only 18 regular season games and 5 playoff games as he worked to get back into the lineup at the end of the season. Adding further disappointment to the injury was how well Rielly was performing prior to the ACL tear. While he’s going to take longer to develop, many felt that Rielly was beginning to challenge Ryan Murray just prior to getting hurt.
Defensively, Rielly is still a bit of a work in progress. He’s sleight and is susceptible to being out-muscled by larger forwards. He also struggles a bit maintaining control of his man and appears to be lost at times in defensive zone coverage. As he continues to mature, Rielly needs to learn how to use his skating ability more to his advantage in defensive zone play to maintain better positioning and leverage his agility for improved positioning.
As mentioned, Rielly will probably need at least 1 more year in the WHL where he can continue to develop his two-way game. If he does continue to improve in that regard, however, look out. Rielly is an offensive general who controls the tempo of the game. His ability to rush the puck is uncanny and his skating and puck moving ability both translate very well to the NHL.
Pros: Excellent skater, elite vision, leadership quality, cerebral player.
Cons: Lack of strength, puck retrieval needs work.
Skillset Comparison: Brian Campbell.