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Leafs won’t release Rielly for World Juniors

New Jersey Devils v Toronto Maple Leafs

skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Air Canada Centre on November 8, 2013 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 2-1 in the shootout.

Bruce Bennett

It appears Morgan Rielly won’t be headed to his second straight World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Maple Leafs aren’t going to release Rielly for the annual U-20 tournament, GM Dave Nonis announced on Wednesday. The decision comes after great speculation about the rookie defenseman’s availability -- especially after the Leafs recalled veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles last week -- but it’s possible Rielly’s recent string of solid play played a role in him sticking with Toronto.

The 19-year-old scored his first NHL goal on Monday in a 3-1 defeat in Pittsburgh, then played 19:38 in last night’s 3-1 loss to Florida. Rielly has become a lineup regular over the last two weeks, playing in each of Toronto’s last five games after being a healthy scratch on a few occasions in early December.

With this decision, it appears Team Canada will have just one NHLer on its roster for the Worlds -- Minnesota defenseman Mathew Dumba.

(The team might still take another crack at Calgary rookie Sean Monahan, though.)