Tavares lauds Rielly’s ability to be a Leafs factor
WASHINGTON — John Tavares, before he signed with the Maple Leafs, had a solid grip on the talents of Morgan Rielly after playing against the Toronto defenceman for five seasons.
Five games of the 2018-19 regular season, following a full training camp, have given Tavares a greater appreciation of what Rielly does each night out.
“His ability to be counted on in all situations,” Tavares said of what he has learned about Rielly. “Great composure.
“Everyone knows about his skating ability, but when you have that, it’s how you use it. His ability to close time and space and be relied upon defensively, get the puck out, make a good outlet pass to escape pressure and then his instincts offensively to jump in on the rush — all those things are tremendous talents of his.”
What has Mitch Marner witnessed in Rielly’s 12-point start to the season?
“He has been moving the puck very well, he’s joining the rush when he sees an open opportunity,” Marner said. “On the power play, he controls it all out there, he brings guys into him and can see the ice very well. Just overall he’s playing with high confidence and that’s what we need from him all year.”
During his post-game availability on Thursday night in Detroit, Leafs coach Mike Babcock was asked about the growth of Rielly and whether Rielly could develop into the Leafs’ version of Chicago Blackhawks veteran Duncan Keith, who twice has won the Norris Trophy.
Babcock managed to slip a notso-subtle nudge at the unsigned William Nylander into his answer.
“It’s a hard league for a D-man,” Babcock said. “We’ve got good offensive players up front and Morgan can pass and really skate. I think Jake (Gardiner) does a lot of the same.
“We’re not as deep, we’ve kind of got one power-play unit right now instead of two. When Willy decides to come back, we’ll have two. That’ll make a difference then. Obviously, the more scoring you have from the back, the better off you are.”
The feeling remains that Nylander won’t be making such a decision any time soon.
Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly tries to get around the stick of the Detroit Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader on Thursday in Detroit.