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Prized prospect Rielly: ‘My goal is to make the Leafs this year’

Sep 5, 2013, 5:32 PM EDT

Morgan Rielly AP

Morgan Rielly has lofty aspirations heading into this season.

“My expectations for myself are pretty high,” Rielly told CBC.ca. “Obviously my goal is the make the Leafs this year. I’ve been training hard and I’ve been on the ice a lot.

“My goal is to play in Toronto this year.”

Rielly, 19, was the club’s first-round pick (fifth overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, putting him among the elite in the deepest defensive draft the league has seen in years.

Eight blueliners went in the first 10 picks, with only Columbus’ Ryan Murray (second overall) and the Islanders’ Griffin Reinhart (fourth) going higher.

Rielly also got a taste for NHL hockey during Toronto’s abbreviated training camp last season before being sent back to WHL Moose Jaw. Leafs GM Dave Nonis praised Rielly’s play, but said the youngster’s lack of game experience (there were no exhibitions last season) and Toronto’s defensive depth were the deciding factors.

The latter part of that explanation, though, has changed.

Several of the guys ahead of Rielly last season are now gone. Mike Kostka signed in Chicago, Mike Komisarek was bought out, Ryan O’Byrne jumped to the KHL and Cody Franson remains unsigned.

At the time of writing, Toronto had seven defensemen under contract for next season — Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Mark Fraser, Jake Gardiner, Korbinian Holzer, John-Michael Liles and Paul Ranger.

Holzer fell out of the rotation last year and didn’t dress after Mar. 16; Liles only played 32 games and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs; Ranger hasn’t played an NHL contest since 2009-10.

So you can see why Rielly — who played 14 regular-season and eight playoff games with the AHL Marlies — is now gunning for a gig with the Leafs.

“I’ll just try to play my game, play with confidence,” he explained. “Hopefully I’ll be able to make a good impression.”

  1. sampulls - Sep 5, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    With such a deep team that the Leafs have, how would this kid make it?

    P.S. Leafs fans, the comment was sarcastic,

    • timsabourin - Sep 5, 2013 at 9:50 PM

      the never ending sentence

    • lordfletcher - Sep 5, 2013 at 10:33 PM

      making fun of a team that made the playoffs?

      dur…

      -wild fan

    • dueman - Sep 5, 2013 at 10:45 PM

      sampulls – Saying something like that just shows your hockey ignorance as the Leafs are very deep on defense. You should maybe learn about what you are talking about BEFORE you talk about it next time.

  2. withseidelinn - Sep 6, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Wonder if Holzer can make the jump to a full time NHL shutdown guy. He could make Fraser expendable, or if he plays well enough could be a pretty good piece of traid bait. Hoping Ranger can be a factor as well.

    • canuckteach - Sep 8, 2013 at 8:33 AM

      with: nope.. we don’t want Fraser to be replaced by anybody, esp. Holzer, who is as unexciting as the ‘vegetable lasagna’ guy in that Seinfeld episode.. if anything, if Holzer becomes a great shutdown guy, put him with Dion, and let’s get the Captain using his speed to rush the puck a little more. Fraser’s grit is necessary — otherwise, we will peeling our forwards off the boards when we play the Bruins, like we were 2 years ago, BEFORE Fraser arrived. how soon you forget. You don’t take your mom to a street fight, and Veggie Lasagna won’t do much better.

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