Trio of Warriors head to NHL rookie camps
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Morgan Rielly cuts into the Brandon Wheat Kings zone as he drives past Jayce Hawryluk in the Warriors' final home game of the 2012-13 season.
One of the few people that doesn’t appear to have an opinion about ‘what is best for Morgan Rielly’s long-term development’ is Morgan Rielly.
The 19-year-old defenceman is going to do all he can to play with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, but if the National Hockey League club decides another season in Moose Jaw is what’s best for him, Rielly has no problem coming back for another junior season and taking another run at a world junior championship.
“It’s been weird. I’ve had quite a few questions about what (the Leafs) think will help me the most in the future and I’m not sure what they think. I’m going to try to play my best hockey and we will see what works best for the team and myself,” said Rielly before his final practice with the Warriors Monday before he flew to Toronto early Tuesday morning.
“They haven’t been too open about what I have to do. They told me I have to come in and play hard and that I have a chance to make the team, but that’s really all they’ve told me.”
Rielly played 14 regular season and eight playoff games with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League last year after the conclusion of the Warriors season. Because of his age the AHL isn’t an option this season. He has to either play in the NHL or the WHL.
Rielly felt his experience in the AHL helped his development significantly.
“I learned a lot. It was a great experience playing pro hockey for two months there,” said Rielly. “Having a chance to play with the older guys helped me a lot. It gave me a taste for what I’m in for. I have to be ready at camp and I think that was a good place to start for me.”
He felt it took him a few days to adjust to the pro game, but we felt comfortable as he settled in.
“I was able to play 20-plus games which was great. They said they were pretty happy with me. Hopefully I can keep that going at camp and get the opportunity to make a good impression,” said Rielly spent three days last week at the NHL’s first Rookie Orientation Program in Lansdowne Resort, Virginia.
Rielly had a goal and two assists in his regular season stint in the AHL and also scored a playoff goal. He played a regular shift and got time on the power play.
“I had my chances and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “I’m not too worried about the points, that’s not a huge concern for me. I think the points will come if you play well and that’s what I’m concerned about.”
Rielly is one of three Warriors heading to NHL camps this week — Travis Brown will be at Chicago Blackhawks rookie camp, while Tanner Eberle has been invited to the Montreal Canadiens rookie camp.
Eberle took a puck in the face Friday when a deflected point shot struck him just above his lip on a power play drill. Beyond some stitches and some swelling, he is expected be fine and to fully take part in Canadiens camp.
Brown and Rielly will meet in their first rookie game when Chicago play Toronto Thursday in London, Ont.
The duo are often defence partners and are looking forward to playing each other. Brown hasn’t signed with the Hawks yet, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to Chicago with the same mindset Rielly is taking to Toronto.
“For sure you want to go in and try to make the team. I think you have to look at it like that,” said Brown who was a fifth round pick of the Hawks in 2012. “You want to prove yourself. I want to try my best and put my best foot forward. Hopefully things work out.”
It will be Brown’s first real training camp experience after last year’s NHL lockout. After the lockout ended Rielly attended Leafs main camp, but this year he will follow a more normal path at camp. The rookie tournament should help him get his feet under him before he heads to main camp.
“It’s great that we have a chance to go and play a few (rookie) games first, but last year when I got a chance to play in the AHL I got a taste of it. I also got a chance to play with a few players (on the Marlies) who are going to the rookie tournament so I think that will help me,” said Rielly.
“I’m trying to approach each day as a tryout. I’m not trying to concentrate too much on the big picture yet because it is quite early still. I want to try to do the best I can each day and try to get better.”