Although it seemed like the Toronto Maple Leafs seriously considered loaning Morgan Rielly to Canada for the World Junior Championships, the team has decided to hang onto the 19-year-old. The deadline for the decision isn’t until tomorrow, but the Leafs announced today that Rielly would be staying with the team.
TOR has decided Morgan Rielly will NOT be loaned to Canada’s national junior team for the WJC.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 18, 2013
This isn’t a particularly surprising announcement, since Rielly has been among the better players for Toronto recently. The Leafs have struggled badly over their last 15 contests, winning only one game in regulation in that stretch of time. Meanwhile, Rielly is averaging close to 18 minutes a game and is clearly becoming more and more comfortable on the blue line.
He’s a teenager, but appears to have entrenched himself as a top-six defenseman for the Leafs. Veterans like Paul Ranger and John Michael-Liles haven’t been able to wrestle any playing time away from Rielly, and Toronto likes what they’re seeing out of him. He had a chance to take on a major leadership role with Canada during the WJC, but that wasn’t quite enticing enough for the Leafs.