The Toronto Maple Leafs have two young defensemen that most of the NHL would love to have. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner give the Leafs two young playmaking defensemen that could prove lethal if they both remain with the team for the majority of their careers.
The question is, which one is better? Both are puck-movers and they are both young. They were both selected in the first round of an NHL Draft. The similarities are endless.
It’s those similarities that start most talk of a Gardiner trade. However, that is not what this article is about. It’s about asking which one of them will end up having a better career.
Gardiner was drafted 17th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He was acquired by the Leafs in the trade that also brought Joffrey Lupul to Toronto in exchange for Francois Beauchemin. In 139 games in the NHL, Gardiner has amassed 12 goals and 39 assists for a total of 51 points. He has been in and out of Randy Carlyle‘s dog house, but he should eventually breakout if given the chance, which could happen next season.
Rielly was drafted fifth overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2012 NHL Draft. After spending the 2012-13 season with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, Rielly made his debut with the Leafs this season. So far he has two goals and 14 assists for 16 points. Big things are expected out of Rielly and he should should exceed those expectations as he develops more in the NHL game.
Reilly is younger than Gardiner by four years so barring injury, Rielly should have a longer career. That however does not mean he will have the better career of the two.
Which one of the two young defensemen will have the best career when it’s all said and done? It’ll take a while to figure out, but we can always speculate.