Morgan Rielly celebrates after he scored a goal against the Regina Pats. Times-Herald file photo
If there was anything that could further lift the spirits of a fanbase coming off an overtime win that led to a series sweep, this is it: Morgan Rielly is back.
The Moose Jaw Warriors announced Thursday afternoon that Rielly, their highly-touted defenceman, would be in the line-up for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference final series against the Edmonton Oil Kings a week from today.
As much as Warriors fans have been eagerly anticipating his return, it pales in comparison to how badly Rielly has wanted to get back in the line-up.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Rielly. “It’s been extremely hard to have to watch the guys out there on the ice every night. It’s been tough, but it’s been interesting.”
Rielly missed 54 games during the regular season after he tore his ACL on Nov. 6 in a game against the Calgary Hitmen. Despite the injury and missing most of his draft season, Rielly is still ranked fifth amongst North American skaters on Central Scouting’s final rankings.
The knee injury, the surgery and the rehabilitation are all experiences Rielly wished he hadn’t acquired, but looking back on it he feels he gained from them as well.
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“As a player I think I took a whole lot of things for granted,” said Rielly. “I think after this incident I won’t have that any more. It’s been a huge eye-opener for me. I hope I don’t have any teammates who have to do this kind of rehab.
“I think I learned a lot about myself as a person. It’s been a huge character builder for me. It’s been an interesting experience.”
Game 1 against the Oil Kings will be Friday, April 20 at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
“It won’t be easy, but I’m confident that I’ll be playing at a high pace and that I can help the team win,” said Rielly.
“It’s nice to have that extra eight days of prep. It’s certainly pretty nice to have that idea of who you’re playing and who will be your partner in that series. It’s nice to have that confidence.”
Rielly had three goals and 15 assists in 18 games during the regular season before his injury.