No, I’m not crazy and yes, you read the title right. Morgan Reilly is one of the top six forwards on the Maple Leafs. So what if he lines up on the blue line in the offensive end? In my eyes, he plays more of an offensive game than a defensive one regardless. Reilly has really proven his worth this season with his scorching hot start. He has taken a tremendous step forward on the offensive end as well as the defensive.
Reilly was a highly-touted prospect in the 2012 NHL draft after a gruesome ACL injury at the beginning of his season with the Moose Jaw Warriors. He was selected 5th overall by the Leafs but, the then GM, Brian Burk, says he had him ranked number one. At the time, Burke said of Reilly “He’s got a high IQ, high compete level, smart decisions. The future’s very bright for him. Our scouts are ecstatic.”
I think all Leafs fans are (if they weren’t already) starting to share that feeling of ecstasy with the Leafs scouts. Now, this might sound crazy to most people and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it as I write this but, here are my reasons for Reilly being a top 6 forward:
HE’S ONE OF THE MOST OFFENSIVELY TALENTED DEFENSEMAN IN THE LEAGUE
Reilly is so gifted on the offensive end. He’s extremely skilled with the puck, loves to rush up into the zone with teammates and don’t even get me started on his shot. This video can do all the explaining(NSFW): https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs/status/1050542603760848896
He is showing his elite offensive presence as he leads all defensemen in points and is second among blue liners in goals.
BEST OFFENSIVE START TO A SEASON BY A DEFENSEMAN SINCE BOBBY ORR
Bobby Orr is widely regarded as one of the greatest players to EVER play the game of hockey, so when a player beats a record held by him, it’s kind of a big deal. In Rielly’s first five games of the season, he tallied 12 points which was one better than Orr’s 11 in 1973. Only six forwards in the last 30 years have had more points in their teams first five games.
RIELLY IS CARRYING HIS SUCCESS OVER FROM LAST YEAR AND ADDING SOME
Last season, Rielly finished with 52 points (6 G, 46 Ast) and less than 1/3 of the way through this season, he’s mustered up 27 points (9 G, 18 Ast). That’s an average of 1.08 points per game and if he keeps it up, he’ll finish the season with about 88 points. Last year, that would have put him 10th in the league: one point behind Sidney Crosby and one point ahead of Alexander Ovechkin. That’s elite company.
HE IS CRUCIAL TO THE LEAFS POWERPLAY
Rielly leads the Maple Leafs in PP points with 10 of them. 9 of those PP points are assists which leads the team in that category. He’s also in the top five d-men in PP points and top 5 in PP assists. He mans the blue line and is as important to the man advantage as a QB is to a football team.
HE IS ALWAYS ON THE ICE WHEN THE LEAFS SCORE
Out of the Leafs 88 goals for, Rielly has been on the ice for 52 of them (59.1%). That sits him in second place in the league for goals on ice for. Which is probably why he’s among the league elite in terms of point production.
HE IS PUTTING UP BETTER NUMBERS THAN ELITE FORWARDS IN THEIR AGE 24 SEASON
Just for comparison’s sake, I’m going to put Rielly’s numbers here again:
Through 25 games played, he has 27 points (9 G, 18 Ast). Compared to some of the league’s best forwards, Rielly is putting up more points: here’s a few examples:
Toews has been one of the most consistently great players in the league since he entered. In his 2012 – 13 (Age 24): he had 23 points (11 G, 12 Ast) through his teams first 25 and finished with 48 pts through 47 games.
Hall was only the Hart Memorial Trophy winner last season (Most Valuable Player). In his age 24 season in 2015-16 he had 25 points through his teams first 25 games and finished off with 65 in 82 games.
Tavares has been a top forward on his team since he came into the league and in his age 24 season he put up 23 points in 25 games and ended off with 86 in 82 games.
I understand that this is definitely an interesting take but if you think about it, it’s not far from the truth. Yes, the Leafs offensive unit is extremely deep (especially when Matthews and Nylander are in the lineup) but maybe it’s because we have guys on the back end like Rielly putting up crazy numbers.
Next time you watch a Leafs game, look out for Rielly and see the impact he has offensively. You’ll start to think the same way.