© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Morgan Rielly carries the puck up ice for the Moose Jaw Warriors in action from the 2011-12 regular season.
Morgan Rielly spent Thursday on a boat, taking batting practice at PNC Park and talking to fans on the NHL’s twitter feed.
In his few spare moments he also had time to contemplate his future.
The Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman will learn where his National Hockey League future lies tonight when he is expected to be one of the first names called during the NHL Draft (5 p.m., TSN).
“I’m happy we’ve been pretty busy and we’ve had things to do. It’s been fun. It’s been pretty enjoyable so far, but it’s been a pretty long day,” said Rielly from Pittsburgh.
It’s been a whirlwind month for Rielly who was interviewed by all 30 NHL teams at the combine, appeared on Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry, did the media rounds at Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final and has been in the media spotlight since landing in Pittsburgh Wednesday.
Rielly said he has enjoyed his draft year experience, but he’s ready for the hype and the suspense to finally end.
“I’m pretty anxious. I want things to come to a close,” said Rielly. “I’ve enjoyed it up to this point, but it’s been a pretty long road and I’m just looking forward to hearing what the end of it is going to be. I’m looking forward to (Friday) and hearing what my future has in store.”
Friday will be the culmination of a tumultuous season. The Vancouver product won the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament with the Canadian under-18 team to start his season. He played was scoring a point a game after 18 regular season games with the Warriors when he tore his ACL. Rielly worked hard to rehab his knee after undergoing surgery and returned in time for the Warriors trip to the Eastern Conference final.
Despite missing most of his draft season, Rielly is still in the top-10 of most observers pre-draft rankings. He feels that he had a good NHL draft combine in Toronto which didn’t hurt his draft stock.
“I was pretty pleased with how it all went. I’ve had a lot of comments from scouts that they were happy with the scores, so that’s always nice,” said Rielly.
Despite what’s on the line, he said he didn’t feel any pressure at the combine and said he is trying to enjoy the experience. His former Notre Dame Hounds defence partner Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes has been at all of the pre-draft events, as has his former minor hockey teammate Griffin Reinhart from the Edmonton Oil Kings.
“It’s all been pretty fun and I’m grateful I had the chance to share it with some people I’ve played with before,” said Rielly who also knows a number of draft eligible players from his time with the under-18s. “Having some ex-teammates along for the ride has been pretty nice.”
Rielly also brought his family to Pittsburgh to share in the weekend. He will be joined by his brother Connor, his parents and his grandmother in the stands at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
“They’ve been a huge support group for me as a hockey player growing up and it’s cool to have the opportunity to experience this as a family,” said Rielly.