TORONTO - Morgan Rielly couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a busy Toronto street corner a couple of weeks ago.
The rookie Maple Leafs defenceman was walking back to his hotel following a morning skate and heard a couple of twenty-somethings talking Leafs.
“The one guy said he thought the team should put me back in junior,” Rielly said, remembering the conversation with a smile, “and that hurt my confidence a little bit.”
Consider Rielly’s confidence back on an even keel. The 19-year-old, selected fifth overall by the Leafs in the 2012 draft, will make his NHL debut on Saturday night when the Leafs, in their home opener, play host to the Ottawa Senators as the Battle of Ontario resumes for the 2013-14 season.
Rielly’s mom and dad, Andy and Shirley, were scheduled to be on an early flight Saturday morning out of Vancouver and in the stands at the Air Canada Centre for their youngest son’s debut. But only after some quick packing and dropping Morgan’s dog off at the kennel.
“I’m hoping he’s less nervous than me,” Andy Rielly said by telephone on Friday afternoon. “But he seems to be fine with it. We’re so happy for him. It’s a great chance.”