This draft profile is on Morgan Rielly, defenseman for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL and perhaps the most talented defenseman in the draft. An ACL injury, however, shortened his season and it's unknown how much he will fall because of it. Slated to be picked anywhere from #4 to #14, Rielly is certainly a player that needs to be on the Stars radar.
Defenseman / Moose Jaw Warriors - WHL
March 9, 1994
Hometown: West Vancouver, BC
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Final CSS North American Rank: 5th
Future Considerations: 9th
Hockey Prospectus: 3rd
The Scouting Report: 7th
Rielly is a very gifted and advanced defender whose season was cut short early on by a torn ACL, limiting him to 18 WHL games. Prior to the injury, Rielly was seen as a plus skater but as with all knee injuries that is an aspect of his game to monitor going into next season to see if any effectiveness is lost. However, when he came back during the playoffs, his skating seemed to be in its usual great form. His speed is good with a dangerous top gear and Rielly can be especially impressive from a standstill with his acceleration, four-way mobility, and his elusive quickness. He can also really make things happen on a power play with his footwork and ability to maneuver in tight spaces. Rielly is a very skilled offensive player with plus puck skills and passing ability who can dangle an opponent out of his skates or thread a bullet pass through a tight lane. He creates a lot with his individual ability but much more so with his hockey sense and ability to control the flow. Rielly is very aware of his time and space and rarely seems pressured when making plays. That hockey sense also translates to the other end of the ice as Rielly reads his assignments well, makes a lot of good little plays defensively, and works hard in that aspect. He's a small guy in terms of height but especially his muscle mass. Despite his advanced sense, Rielly likely will take a few years before being ready to make the jump so he can fill out and get physically prepared to the next level.
Rielly got into only 23 games this season due to an untimely torn ACL injury near the beginning of the season. Rielly came back to play in 5 playoff games which shows his dedication even though it was met with mixed results. Rielly's game is all about puckhandling and skating as he is superb in both aspects of the game. At his best, Rielly is a very smooth puck distributor who has the ability to skate the puck and create off the rush. While Rielly will never overwhelm opponents physically nor with his defensive game, his exceptional offensive poise and composure makes him a very valuable player moving forward.
"I've seen Rielly do things on the ice that nobody else was doing. I saw him make those little passes to guys who weren't expecting the puck to get there. He's the type of player who can lead the rush and he'll be the first guy back. I think his creativity makes him one of the top players in the league. He's like a chess player; he's thinking one or two moves ahead. He sees stuff coming that a lot of players don't see."
Morgan Rielly is another player who likely would have been a candidate for a top three pick, but has fallen off due to an ACL injury 18 games into the WHL season. There's no question that Rielly is the most offensively-gifted defenseman in the draft; a true power play quarterback and a player that is exceptionally gifted and creative when it comes to distributing the puck. He doesn't have a rocket shot from the blue line, relying instead on superb puck-handling and passing skills to create scoring chances.
Rielly isn't regarded as a speedster with a killer top speed, yet is perhaps the quickest player in the draft. He has an incredible ability to maneuver with the puck in tight spaces and can get to his top speed from a complete standstill better than most players currently in the NHL. As such, his ACL injury is certainly concerning considering just how important skating his to his game. He came back for five games in the playoffs and his skating seemed fine, although he was far from the sure-handed player that had 18 points in 18 games before the injury.
His defensive game isn't exceptional and he will never be physically overwhelming, but Rielly represents those that belief the best defensemen are the ones that never allow for a scoring chance against because the puck is always in the other end of the ice. He'll get a lot of comparisons to Cam Fowler, although Rielly is nowhere near as NHL-ready as Fowler was when he was drafted.
Rielly is a true wild card in the draft, with mocks having him selected anywhere from #4 to #14. Most scouts place him in the top eight players in the draft overall and likely sits on that precipice between the elite players in this draft and "everyone else."
There's certainly a chance that Rielly falls to the Stars, although it's not entirely likely. If it does happen, the Stars almost assuredly have to pick Rielly, even if they were focused on center.