Leafs need to let young defenceman play at WJHC
The Toronto Maple Leafs should do the right thing and loan Morgan Rielly to Team Canada for the World Juniors.
The rookie defenceman is having a tough go currently in the National Hockey League (NHL) and going to play against the top players in his own age group would do wonders for his confidence and game.
When Hockey Canada released the preliminary roster of 25 players on Monday, Rielly was not on that list, partially due to the Leafs inability to answer the question if they will loan him for the two-and-a-half weeks later this month.
However, Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post reported on Wednesday there still might be a chance the Leafs will allow Rielly to play for Team Canada.
“It’s unlikely, but not impossible,” Dave Nonis, general manager of the Leafs told the Post. “In the event that he’s not playing regularly, or there’s a change in our roster … I wouldn’t say that he’s off the table. But I wouldn’t say it’s likely.”
The 19-year-old blue-chip player has appeared in 22 games thus far this season for the Leafs and has struggled. He has been a healthy scratch a few games and is a team worst minus-11 on the season with only nine points and no goals.
He was on the ice for three goals against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday in the Leafs 4-2 loss. He looked like a young player trying to learn the game at the highest level.
Rielly is a confident player and knows how to play the game. He proved that when he played with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Mike Stothers, head coach of the Warriors put a lot of trust in Rielly and allowed him to play his fast-paced game at the Western Hockey League (WHL) level. Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle has tried his best to protect Rielly from some of the harsh realities of playing against the world’s best players at a young age.
However, if the Leafs keep him, will that confidence shatter? Will he be another Leafs blue-liner they brought up too quickly and put too many expectations on, like Luke Schenn?
That is why the Leafs should still give Rielly the opportunity to play at the national level with elite players of his own age and have the chance to rebuild his confidence.
Rielly has played at that level before and with his experience at the NHL level, he could be a great asset for Brent Sutter and Team Canada on the backend.
Rielly would miss 15 games while playing and the Leafs have other veteran defencemen they could use to fill that role.
This could be the break that Rielly needs to get re-focused and the possibility of bringing a gold medal home would bring confidence to just about any player.
Rielly is going to be a main-stay defenceman in the NHL for years to come, but the Leafs shouldn’t hinder his development on such a big stage.
Fitz-Gerald stated that the deadline to add NHL players to the junior roster is Dec. 19. That leaves the Leafs about 15 days to make the right decision for Rielly and his game.
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