Morgan Rielly has waited a long time to play a home game.
Four-and-a-half years to be exact.
Rielly will play his first game in Vancouver since the spring of 2008 when he suits up for Team WHL when they take on the Russians in Game 5 of the Subway Super Series tonight.
He and his Moose Jaw Warrior teammate Sam Fioretti will also play in the final game of the six-game series Thursday in Victoria.
“I haven’t played in my hometown since Grade 8,” said Rielly. “Hopefully it will be a good one Wednesday night.”
Since playing in Vancouver, the 18-year-old played a season in Wilcox where he captained the Notre Dame Hounds to a Telus Cup midget AAA title. Since graduating to the WHL, he missed the Warriors’ west-coast trip to represent Team Pacific at the Under-17 World Challenge.
The fifth overall pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs has an impressive resumé. He has represented his country at the under-18 level at a IIHF worlds and at the Memorial of Hlinka tournament, but has yet to play in a World Junior Championships. These two games against the Russians is a step in that process.
“It’s always great when you get to take part in Hockey Canada event. I want to work hard and try to do my best,” said Rielly.
With Dougie Hamilton and Scott Harrington eligible to return to the Canadian blue line along with Everett’s Ryan Murray, the final few spots on the World Junior team should be hotly contested.
Rielly will be one of the front-runners for a spot, but will be playing beside some of the other challengers — including Griffin Reinhart, Mathew Dumba and Derrick Pouliot — for those final roster spots during the Series.
A World Junior roster spot is a far from being in the fore of Fioretti’s mind. The 19-year-old centre was honoured to even be invited.
“I don’t have any expectations to make that team, but I’m still going to go out there and give it everything I’ve got,” said Fioretti. “It’s a long shot, but maybe if I play well enough it will happen.”
Fioretti was originally scheduled to play in only one game, but with injuries to Edmonton’s Mitch Moroz and Regina’s Trent Ouellette ruling them out, Fioretti will now play in both games.
“I’m excited. I’ve never participated in an all-star game or anything like this,” said Fioretti who was passed over in both the WHL Bantam and NHL drafts. “I’m not drafted, so maybe I can showcase myself.”
Fioretti has 15 goals and 27 points in 23 games with the Warriors.
The Super Series is tied at 2-2.