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Leafs need to be careful with prized prospect Rielly

Morgan Rielly

Morgan Rielly, center, a defenseman, stands with officials from the Toronto Maple Leafs after being chosen fifth overall in the first round of the NHL hockey draft on Friday, June 22, 2012, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


Morgan Rielly’s goal is to be playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013-14.

It’s a realistic objective for the 19-year-old defenseman, as there was a reason he was drafted fifth overall in 2012.

The problem facing Rielly and the Leafs is that, if he’s not quite good enough to crack the NHL, it’s back to the WHL to play against teenagers for the Moose Jaw Warriors. (The AHL isn’t an option because of the agreement between the NHL and CHL.)

Per the Canadian Press, Leafs director of player development Jim Hughes concedes it’s possible Rielly has “outgrown” junior hockey.

In 2012-13, Rielly had 54 points in 60 games for the Warriors. The team’s failure to qualify for the playoffs meant he was then able to join the AHL Marlies for 14 regular-season and eight playoff games. He only had two goals and two assists in those 22 games, but at least he got a sniff of professional hockey.

Hughes says “it’s going to be real dicey to see how this all unfolds” and knows the Leafs have to be careful with their prized prospect. The microscope is powerful in Toronto, and on-ice mistakes can be compounded by the sheer number of people that see and comment on them; just ask Luke Schenn.