Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Defenseman Morgan Rielly Was an Amazing Pick

Curtis NgContributor IIIJune 23, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22:  Morgan Rielly, fifth overall pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, poses on stage with general manager Brian Burke (L) and team representatives during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Andy Rielly, Morgan Rielly's Leaf-loving dad, did a double fist-pump when Brian Burke announced his son's name at the podium on Friday night.

Given what the younger Rielly brings to the organization, Leaf fans should feel equally excited about this pick.

No doubt there are those who are disappointed that Burke did not trade up for a chance at drafting centreman Alex Galchenyuk or are confused as to why he didn't opt for a forward like Filip Forsberg or Mikhail Grigorenko with the fifth pick.

The Toronto Maple Leafs would prefer to have a No. 1 centreman now rather than later. Centres like Galchenyuk or Grigorenko, if they even have that kind of potential, will not be ready to take on that kind of responsibility for at least a year or two.

Would the cost to trade up have been worth it? What if the teams above Toronto were demanding Luke Schenn and a good prospect along with the fifth overall pick?

No, better to acquire an established NHL centreman right now.

As reported by Leafs beat reporter Jonas Siegel, Brian Burke admitted to being in talks with the Pittsburgh Penguins about Jordan Staal.

Nothing came of it, but that's the right way to go.

Not every rookie centreman can turn out like the New Jersey Devils' Adam Henrique. If there was a centreman in this year's draft who is guaranteed to make an immediate impact in the NHL (like if Nail Yakupov was a centreman), I'd be changing my tune.

But there wasn't.

The Leafs did right to not only pick a defenseman with the No. 5 pick, but to get Morgan Rielly.

Rielly is an offensive-minded defenseman who loves rushing with the puck and who will likely be able to take on first-unit power-play responsibilities someday in addition to becoming a top-pairing D-man.

Sure, the Leafs have a crowded blue line, but how many of them are as smart as Rielly?

How many of them, besides Jake Gardiner, are exciting to watch?

Which current Leaf defenseman is good at moving the puck out of his own zone?

The Leafs' defensive corps needs a shakeup.

A number of them are gifted offensively, but few of them are responsible defensively.

That's the funny thing about Morgan Rielly. He's known primarily for his offensive talents, but he's also a very smart hockey player, meaning he is good in all three areas of the ice.

In short, he is a very intelligent, well-rounded hockey player. The same cannot be said for most of the current Leafs, much less the current Leaf D-men.

Craig Button mentioned during TSN's first-round draft coverage that Rielly is probably the best passer in the entire 2012 draft.

It seems like such a small thing to worry about—passing, that is—but how many current Leafs are known as excellent passers?

There may be a few good passers on the team, but I can count the number of excellent passers on the team with my left antenna.

And boy, does the kid give a great interview or what? If you haven't already, check out the 10-minute-long chat he has with the media after getting drafted, and pay special attention to his diction.

Having great character and being well-spoken doesn't necessarily mean you are (or will be) a great hockey player, but seeing these qualities in an 18-year-old is very encouraging.

This young man could grow into a top-pairing D-man who may one day assume some leadership responsibilities.

He's probably not ready for NHL duty yet, but that's OK.

Rielly immediately becomes one of the most, if not the most exciting prospect in the Leaf organization and should be given all the time he needs to learn the pro game.


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