Should the lockout end in the near future, teams will immediately shift into hockey mode and with that will come some difficult player personnel decisions. With no NHL action right now, teams have had the luxury of allowing young players to develop in their respective minor league systems without having to make any tough calls.
Not only will AHL teams lose several players, but major junior squads and the World Junior Hockey Championship could be altered as well once a deal is reached. One such player who won’t be going anywhere soon is Morgan Rielly. According to TSN, Brian Burke informed Hockey Canada on Tuesday that if Rielly makes the team then he will be playing with them for the entire tournament.
Rielly should be a lock to make it along with others that could be deemed NHL ready like Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Scheifele. The injury to defenseman Ryan Murray have many believing that Rielly will be on Canada’s top defensive pairing with Dougie Hamilton.
The idea of Rielly playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs wouldn’t have been that farfetched if the season had started on time. If you remember the Leafs brought in Luke Schenn right away after he was drafted, and you could make an argument that Rielly is in a similar position development wise. However, Schenn did have his struggles at times and may have been better served to have played at least one season down in the AHL.
In a typical season players like Rielly are allowed to play a nine-game maximum before their contract kicks in. Before those nine games are up they can be sent back to junior. Should a deal be reached to end the lockout then this season would be looking at 45-50 games, so the maximum allotment for that campaign is anyone’s guess. Not to mention the year would probably start during the WJHC and some players may be called from the tournament and into action for their NHL squads.
Burke seems to be making a smart move here by assuring Rielly that he will be playing the whole tournament. It is good for both his development and obviously team Canada. The Leafs seem to have the best group of young talent in their organization since…. well, maybe ever. There is no need to rush.