The 2018/2019 NHL season has been an impressive one for Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly, and with the regular season winding down, I think Rielly is the team’s most valuable player this season.
Lets examine things to understand why I think Rielly is the team’s MVP, when Toronto has superstars like Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and goaltender Frederik Andersen. I think we should start with what he brings to the locker room. Rielly is the third longest serving active Maple Leaf, behind only Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner for time spent with the team. He brings experience to this young roster, but also leadership, as he is the only one of those three long time Leafs to wear an ‘A’ on his jersey this season, as an alternate captain. The Leafs have two other alternate captains, they are Tavares and Patrick Marleau. Toronto media have been speculating all season long about who should be Toronto’s next captain, and Rielly’s name has come up on more than one occasion.
He also leads the team in total time on ice as of press time, and his average time on ice is over 23 minutes per game, which tops the team stat list as well. Obviously, this shows the coach trusts Rielly to play in any situation in a game.
With a team that sometimes struggles with defence, Rielly is one of the most responsible players, as he is second on the team in the plus/minus stat, sitting at a plus 28, and has only taken 12 minutes in penalties.
Offensively, Rielly also recently became the third defenceman in Maple Leafs history to record 20 goals in one season. The other two were Al Iafrate and Ian Turnbull. As of press time, Rielly is tied for third on the team in points with 68, and is fourth on the team in goals. Looking at the stats across the league, Rielly is the third highest point producing defenceman in the NHL, behind only Brent Burns of San Jose and Mark Giordano of Calgary.
I don’t think the Leafs would be having the success they’ve had this season without Rielly, and that is why I think he is the team’s MVP.
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