Morgan Reilly has been a constant on the Toronto Maple Leafs blue line since he was selected fifth overall by the team in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
The smooth-skating defenseman earned his way into the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup as a teenager and has not looked back in climbing his way up the all-time franchise records list in various categories.
Leading up to the NHL's Saturday announcement of the remaining all-star game participants, Rielly's teammates lobbied for his inclusion.
Fans of the team did their part as well and their late voting push was enough to see Rielly chosen as an NHL All-Star for the first time in his career. It is most deserving for a player who often plays in the shadow of more noteworthy teammates.
Morgan Rielly Deserving Of All-Star Recognition
Rielly celebrated his selection with a gorgeous, first-period goal against the Colorado Avalanche during Saturday's game.
That goal was another reminder of Rielly's importance to the Leafs. Defense is the team's weakest link, and to think of a blue line without the presence of number 44 is cringeworthy.
Rielly's best feature in his availability. In seven of his previous 10 NHL seasons before this year, he has played in seventy-plus games for the Leafs. This season, he has played in every game, while averaging over 24:26 minutes of ice-time per game. (Statistics courtesy of hockeyreference.com)
He is the Leafs most consistent producer of offense from the blue line. His goal against the Avalanche was his sixth of the season, to go along with 27 assists. His 33 points put him tenth in scoring among NHL defensemen.
He anchors the Leafs first power play unit and leads rushes up the ice. His skating and passing acumen help relieve pressure in the defensive zone and transition the puck to the team's skill players up front.
Rielly has had other seasons that were all-star worthy, most notably 2018-2019. That year he set career highs in goals (20) and points (72). In 2021-2022 he put up a career high 58 assists along with 10 goals for 68 points.
During Rielly's 759 games as a Maple Leaf, he has been a great ambassador for the team. His humility, cordial and respectful interactions with the media, and team-first attitude are all exemplary examples of what a professional athlete should be.
As Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner act as unofficial hosts for their NHL peers this February in Toronto, it's appropriate that the Leafs longest-serving and most unheralded player joins them.