A couple of seasons back when Morgan Rielly put up a career year for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was talked about plenty.
This time around, Morgan Rielly has quietly been getting the job done with the Toronto Maple Leafs spotlight finely tuned on Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
This shouldn’t detract from the fact that with 5 games left to play, Morgan Rielly is going to either come very close to his 72 points in the 2018-19 season or possibly, with a little scoring luck, equal or surpass it.
Last time, his name was popping up in Norris Trophy conversations and the like, this time he is just getting it done quietly, as just another part of the Toronto Maple Leafs roster.
Morgan Rielly: The Toronto Maple Leafs Silent Assassin
Perhaps telling is the fact that he no longer has to be relied upon to be the top defenseman. If you recall, in the 2018-19 campaign, his most regular defensive partner was Ron Hainsey.
They, as a pairing, faced their fair share of tough competition. This season, the burden of tough competition has been shared.
T.J. Brodie is Rielly’s most consistent partner across the season and safe to say, he marks a big step-up from Ron Hainsey, with no offense meant to the latter.
However, most telling is the different partnerships this year, with Rielly also seeing a decent amount of ice with Timothy Liljegren and Ilya Lyubushkin in recent weeks.
Despite the cast alongside him changing, Rielly has managed to maintain a scoring pace of 0.84 points-per-game, which puts him on pace for a 69 point year (across 82 games). Just shy of his career best.
What is possibly more telling though is that his point production, unlike that career best campaign, hasn’t been pumped by an elevated shooting percentage. If you recall he was shooting a 9% that year, way above his career average of 4.9% – this year, he’s at 4.8% (statistics courtesy of Frozen Pool).
Likewise, his numbers aren’t being pumped, at least compared to that campaign, by an extraordinary number of powerplay markers; his 21 that year is right in line with his 22 this year.
Perhaps it’s an age and experience thing or perhaps it’s the knowledge that the Toronto Maple Leafs have extended his contract and he has eight more years with the team that drafted him.
All told though, there’s only 5 defensemen in the league that have more points than Morgan Rielly this campaign.
That list features 3 previous Norris Trophy winners in Roman Josi, Adam Fox and Victor Hedman. The other two names are Cale Makar and John Carlson. It really isn’t the worst company to be keeping.
However, such is the scoring punch that the Toronto Maple Leafs have packed this year that he barely rates much of a mention.
Such are the expectations placed on Morgan Rielly these days that a 65-point campaign earns a mere shrug of the shoulders.
Morgan Rielly may not be the guy that lays the heavy hits along the boards, he may not be the guy you fully trust to make the smartest defensive play every time, however he is seemingly the guy that can tally the points on the Toronto Maple Leafs blue line.
That should count for something as we move towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Perhaps, given he is the longest-serving Toronto Maple Leafs player in the room, he will be wanting to shake the first-round anguish more than most.