Morgan Rielly doesn’t take anything for granted.
His World Junior dreams were put on hold a year ago when he tore his ACL and missed the majority of his draft year. He feels that the experience of sitting out and tirelessly working to get back in the line-up made him a better hockey player and a better person.
Now the Toronto Maple Leafs first rounder is expected to be one of Canada’s top defencemen at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Ufa, Russia, but Rielly isn’t looking that far ahead.
Monday, the Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman was one of 37 players invited to Canada’s World Junior camp which will run Dec. 11-13 in Calgary.
“I’m concentrating on having a good camp and looking to prove myself again,” said Rielly from Kamloops, B.C. where the Warriors were preparing to travel to Prince George for the final game of their seven-game road trip.
“I’m extremely happy to get the invite. Getting the chance to go to camp is a pretty huge honour for me. It’s going to be a pretty great experience playing with some high-end prospects again.”
Rielly was one of 12 defencemen invited to camp to vie for what is traditionally seven spots on the blue line. He is joined by fellow WHLers Mathew Dumba (Red Deer), Derrick Pouliot (Portland), Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton) and Tyler Wotherspoon (Portland). Defencemen Dougie Hamilton and Scott Harrington both return from last year’s team.
Rielly was part of Hockey Canada’s summer development camp and took part in the Canada-Russia Challenge this past summer.
He has also played for Canada at the World Under-18s and at the Memorial of Hlinka Tournament.
At those two under-18 tournaments, Rielly said he tried to play within himself and not take as many risks in his game while still trying to do the things that got him selected for the team.
At the recent Canada-Russia Subway Super Series, Rielly didn’t hesitate to jump into the rush and try to create danger and odd-man rushes on the attack.
“I think you have to go in there and play your game and try to do what the coaches ask of you and hope for the best,” said Rielly of his approach to the camp. “I think I’ll be a bit more cautious … but any time you play for Team Canada you have to do what is asked of you.”
Rielly is second in WHL scoring be defenceman after tallying six goals and 26 points in 30 games thus far.
He has scored twice in the last three games and had a pair of assists in a win against Victoria a week ago.
“The team as a whole right now is playing well and that helps me a lot,” said Rielly who still wants to elevate his game before heading to camp in Calgary.
“There’s always some areas to improve on. Playing a good two-way game and being harder to play against at times.”