Opportunity Knocks for Leafs Rielly
The Toronto Maple Leafs have opened up the season winning back-to-back games on the road, spoiling the home opener of rival Montreal as well as Philadelphia.
As the Leafs get set to return home and get their home opener under way against provincial rivals the Ottawa Senators, one player may be more anxious than the others. Saturday’s home opener in Toronto could be top prospects Morgan Rielly’s first taste of NHL action.
Playing in Philadelphia last night, Mark Fraser was checked awkwardly into the boards by former Leafs tough guy Jay Rosehill, Fraser left the game and did not return. Leafs beat reporter Jonas Siegel reported after the game Fraser was seen leaving the arena on crutches.
With an apparent knee injury, it looks likely Fraser will miss Saturday’s home opener and possibly even an exented period of time.
Fraser’s absence in the line-up opens up the opportunity that Morgan Rielly has been hoping for, a healthy scratch for the first two games, the youngster has been raring to get into his first NHL regular season action.
The 2012 5th overall pick impressed with his speed, offensive acumen and crisp passing during training camp enough to survive the cuts and remain with the team to start the regular season.
Under Coach Randy Carlyle whoever plays best gets their fair share of ice time, regardless of previous experience or the name on the back of the sweater. With Fraser injured and Paul Ranger struggling to find his NHL legs it creates an opportunity for Rielly to play some serious minutes and even get some special teams time.
Two games into the season Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson have emerged as the Leafs most reliable defenseman both getting ample time 5 ov 5 as well as on the powerplay and penalty kill. Rielly could help the Leafs replace some of the speed they lost in the off season, while representing a legitimate option at the point on the 2nd powerplay unit.
Morgan Rielly is still junior eligible, so Carlyle and Nonis will not be looking to keep the defenseman on the team the whole season in just a bottom pairing role. If Morgan Rielly wants to stick with the team this season he will need to force himself into an impact role with the club.
The home opener against a bitter rival this Saturday is no better place to start young Rielly’s life as a Toronto Maple Leaf.