As training camp is set to open in just 2 months, projected line-ups are becoming a hot topic for the Leafs. The question is, who will stay with the big club, and who will be sent down?
One person hoping to make the cut, is our 5th overall draft pick, Morgan Rielly.
Those numbers may not appeal to you, but consider the experience he gained more valuable than any goal or assist. A taste of professional-level hockey is something most 19 year olds do not have the opportunity to experience, and I'm sure that taste is still sitting in his mouth as he trains this off-season.
Now, the question remains whether or not Rielly is capable of jumping into the NHL this up-coming season. I'm sure the answer will not be determined until training camp begins (and/or finishes), but as I speculate, I can certainly see some games - maybe the 9 game tryout - given to him.
I suppose 9 games wouldn't hurt anyone. In fact, like his AHL stint, it would supply him with a sample of NHL-level hockey. Or, in those 9 games, he could take advantage of the opportunity and force Nonis/Carlyle to keep him up. Either way, I see it as a win-only scenario for the Leafs.
One thing if for sure, though, and that is Rielly will be expected to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors again this Winter. In addition to Rielly, the Leafs have 3 other prospects (Matt Finn, Frederik Gauthier, and Ryan Rupert) invited to camp.
Speaking of tryouts, last week we were given a sneak preview of the Leafs future, as prospects gathered to audition for the main training camp. As I watch the rookies scrimmage in a slightly high intense game, Rielly is among the clear standouts. Most notably was his dramatic end to end rush, which resulted in a quality scoring chance for his team. But, it didn't end there, as the opposing team begins an odd-man rush while Rielly is the furthest player from his own net. In turn, Morgan puts his head down and makes it all the way back to his own end, lifts the stick of the breaking player, and saves what would have been a potential goal.
I understand this was only a scrimmage game in a rookie camp, but being defensively aware is a must if you want to make Randy Carlyle's team. Everyone knows the offensive talent Rielly has, but some question his ability in his own end.
So will Morgan Rielly make the Leafs? I guess only time will tell. A slow development certainly does not hurt, but if he can play at the NHL level, I see no reason to pull on the reigns. Training camp and/or a 9 game tryout will decide his destiny.