Is Rielly a great-skating but otherwise average top-four defender who struggles against the league's best? Or is he the elite defender many believed him to be on draft day back in 2012? We think he's somewhere in between. Rielly has struggled to put up offense in his four seasons in the NHL, and last year saw him drop back to 27 points — the same tally he put up as a rookie. However, there's a “but” and it's a big one: Rielly has been the Leafs' No. 1 defender, carrying the massive responsibility to shut down the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Brad Marchand. It's little wonder his offense was down. But this season, the team has added strong veterans in Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey, and it's the latter who might end up being the catalyst for real growth from Rielly. Hainsey is a grizzled veteran who can play the right side in the team's top four. Rielly will consistently skate with either Hainsey or Nikita Zaitsev, and that stability will allow Rielly to use his speed and vision to help drive the transition. The only caveat is that the Leafs have loads of options on the power play, so Rielly's ice time there will be limited. That will keep him down the list of otherwise similarly productive fantasy defenders. Still, a career high in points awaits.
Rielly is a 22-year-old stud defender on the rise. He led the Leafs in ice time in 2015-16 and was the team's top scorer from the blue line (nine goals, 27 assists) despite seeing almost no ice time with the man advantage. Rielly's advanced metrics are outstanding – he is already a solid shot suppressor and generator. And he accomplished those while dragging around dead wood like Matt Hunwick and others the Leafs iced last season. Rielly's development will grow in leaps and bounds as the Leafs improve the rest of their roster. His best attributes are his wheels and his smarts, and they'll make him a perennial All-Star in short order. Expect another jump in points in 2016-17, perhaps to the low 40s. But then it's up, up, UP for Rielly – he'll be a 50-plus-point guy in just a couple years.
Rielly was one of precious few bright spots last season for the Buds. Not only did his role grow in his sophomore season, but he also tallied more even-strength points and improved his possession numbers over his rookie year. And he did it while spending a lot of his time on ice with the Leafs’ defensively challenged first line. Mike Babcock’s arrival in the Big Smoke means Rielly will finally have the kind of defensive tutelage that will take his overall game to the next level. And that means his first 40-point season may well upon us. Dynasty leaguers should invest now – his future is now, and he'll only get better. And better. And … well, you get it. Go get him.
The training wheels are off -- the Leafs expect this kid to haul a heavy load this season, and he's more than up to the challenge. He has the best skillset on the Leafs' blue line, and his acceleration is as sweet as a Porsche. Rielly makes lots of high-percentage plays and he can recover and get back in the play when he doesn't. The Leafs will turn him loose as the quarterback on their second power-play unit. His even-strength ice time will be better insulated by the presence of two new veteran stay-at-home types, Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak. This season should be a nice stepping-stone to a high-octane future. Expect a decent jump in his output from last year, with the possibility of finishing among the league's top-30 scorers from the blue line. That sort of production would make him a must-own in standard formats and an even more valuable chip in dynasty formats.
Rielly is a superb skater and an elite offensive defender who controlled the ice and tallied nearly a point-per-game in the Western Hockey League last year. But the Leafs are caught in a quandary with him -- he's too good for junior, but not old enough to continue his development in the AHL. So the Leafs will be forced to make a hard decision come training camp -- keep him and risk him being overwhelmed in the hottest hockey spotlight in the NHL or return him to junior where he has nothing left to prove (or learn). He's an elite keeper who could some day net 60 points. But 19-year-old defenders rarely excel in the NHL. Single-year owners should wisely leave him undrafted and snag him off the wire if he takes off at any point. Keeper leaguers? You know what to do.
Rielly might have been the 2012 draft’s top offensive defender had it not been for a blown ACL that limited him to just 18 games this past season. But, those 18 games showcased his elite skating, vision and skill – he scored at a point-per-game pace. Rielly has some serious work to do in his own zone, but that can be forgiven in a future fantasy superstar. Yep, you read that right. Pick him if you're in a keeper league and need a future Duncan Keith-Brian Leetch type. Hey, there's even a chance Rielly might crack the Buds' lineup right out of camp. However, he'll be far better served by heading back to junior and dominating in the WHL and at the World Junior tourney.