Warriors ready if Morgan Rielly gets a Maple Leafs mini camp call
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs draft pick Morgan Rielly could receive a call for a mini camp callup if/when the NHL lockout ends. (DAVID BLOOM/QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO - One can bet that Mike Stothers and the Moose Jaw Warriors are keeping a close eye on the bargaining talks between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association.
If a collective bargaining agreement is reached, the Maple Leafs will have the option of summoning two junior players to what would be an abbreviated training camp, and Warriors defenceman Morgan Rielly is one of them, along with Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward David Broll.
While the latter might not get out of the gate, Rielly, it’s assumed, would get a shot.
And that’s fine with Stothers and the Warriors, who have steeled themselves for the possibility, however remote it may be, that Rielly could stick.
“If things happen that the league comes back and Toronto takes him to a mini camp, and if he makes it and plays a few games, good for Morgan,” said Stothers, the Warriors’ head coach. “He has put in the time and he deserves it. You could never be disappointed and then wish he would come back. He has a dream to play for the Leafs, and I would probably be happier than his mom and dad.”
Prior to the Warriors’ game on Wednesday in Calgary versus the Hitmen, Rielly had 20 points (four goals and 16 assists) in 19 games. There aren’t many defencemen in the Canadian Hockey League who skate as fluidly and quickly as Rielly does. And because of his hockey smarts, often he is a thought or two ahead of his teammates.
Stothers had that in mind when he watched Rielly at the Leafs’ prospects camp in Etobicoke in July.
“I was at the point where I wanted to see him with veteran guys to see if his level went up another notch,” Stothers said. “I knew what he could do, but just seeing him out there, I was thinking: ‘Man, he is good.’”
Rielly can’t help but wonder what it would be like if every player on the ice was at his level.
“At times there are plays when (some frustration) is there and I understand that,” Rielly said. “It’s not pro hockey, and I have to get used to that, but I certainly hope it helps me make the jump. I know it’s a team game.”
LEAD AND FOLLOW
Connor Brown has been having a bit of a unique experience as captain of the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.
The Leafs draft pick, who was taken 156th overall this past June in Pittsburgh, is to provide leadership and stability, as any player wearing the captain’s letter would.
But Brown has been riding shotgun on a line with 15-year-old star Connor McDavid, and despite the age difference between the two — Brown is two years and 364 days older than McDavid — it’s Brown who has been benefitting.
“It’s a little extra help when you are playing with a guy like that,” Brown said. “I just try to make the best of it, get open for him and put the puck in the net. He is pretty easy to play with.”
A native of Etobicoke, Brown is well on his way to eclipsing his points total of a year ago, when he had 53 (25 goals and 28 assists) as a rookie with the Otters. In 18 games this season, Brown has 14 goals and seven assists for 21 points. Brown also wants to forget about the minus-72 mark he had in 2011-12. Right now, he is minus-4 on a young Otters team that has just four victories.
Brown is encouraged to be part of a Leafs group of prospects who are regarded as leaders, joining Mississauga’s Stuart Percy and Guelph’s Matt Finn as captains in the OHL.
“All the guys drafted by the Leafs who I have met are character guys, and that’s what they are looking for,” Brown said. “For a bunch of guys to have the letter on the jersey, it says a lot.”
NIGHT OF FIRSTS
It was a memorable night for the Leafs’ two 19-year-old defencemen active in Sweden’s second-tier H-League (Allsvenskan) a week ago Saturday as both Tom Nilsson (Mora) and Viktor Loov (Sodertalje) scored their first goals of the season. A third Euro rearguard, Petter Granberg (Skelleftea in the Elite league), who began the season on the disabled list, injured his shoulder in his second game back and, following surgery will be out until mid-January.
After recording just seven points for the Oshawa Generals in 11 games in October, 2011 first-round choice Tyler Biggs has six points in three games in November. Biggs has taken some time to get adjusted to the major-junior game, but now is on a point-a-game clip with 19 points (nine goals and 10 assists) in 19 games ... Forward Ryan Rupert, taken by the Leafs with the pick immediately after Brown, could be out of the London Knights’ lineup for at least a month because of a separated right shoulder. The injury will cause Rupert to miss the OHL’s game against Russia, part of the Subway Super Series, on Monday. After scoring 17 goals in 63 games last season, Rupert remains without one in 15 games with the Knights ... Josh Leivo, a third-round pick in 2011, leads the Sudbury Wolves with 20 points (10 goals and 10 assists) in 19 games.