Tavares lauds Rielly’s abil­ity to be a Leafs fac­tor

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - SPORTS - TERRY KOSHAN

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.”

CALL­ING NY­LAN­DER

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.

GRE­GORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES

Toronto Maple Leafs de­fence­man Mor­gan Rielly tries to get around the stick of the Detroit Red Wings’ Justin Ab­delka­der on Thurs­day in Detroit.

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