TORONTO – Morgan Rielly is staying with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Coach Randy Carlyle announced that the 19-year-old defenceman won’t be returned to the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors after he plays his ninth NHL game Friday at the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It’s obviously a pretty good feeling but I have a lot left to prove,” Rielly said.
A junior-eligible player is allowed to play up to nine games without his NHL team burning a year of his entry-level contract. The next decision comes at the 40-game mark, which counts as a full season of service time when calculating unrestricted free agency.
“I’m pretty happy it’s all over with, and I don’t have to answer any more questions about it probably till Christmastime,” Rielly said Thursday.
Rielly has four assists, a minus-3 rating and two penalty minutes in eight games this season. But he has looked poised on the ice and not out of place among grown men.
Mark Fraser’s knee injury opened up a spot on Toronto’s blue line for Rielly, and it could be a major reason why he’s sticking around. The Leafs have T.J. Brennan and Korbinian Holzer as defensive options in the AHL, but neither provides the kind of up-ice threat Rielly can.
Rielly was drafted fifth overall by Toronto in the 2012 draft. He made it a point over the off-season to remain with the Leafs instead of going back to junior.