Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ defensive corps may have just taken a huge blow tonight. Less than one period has into in their game against the Buffalo Sabres, Morgan Rielly’s night appears to be done after a collision that impacted his leg.
This is the play where Morgan Rielly appeared to be injured. Leafs running 5D right now, we’ll see which of Hunwick/Gardiner gets min boost pic.twitter.com/6aquVLMvfC
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 18, 2017
Rielly’s collision was with Buffalo forward William Carrier, though it doesn’t appear that there was any level of ill intent in the hit. Toronto has been extremely lucky with Rielly’s health over the years; since he made his debut in 2013/14, the 22-year-old has only missed ten games. Entering tonight, Rielly was Toronto’s time-on-ice leader, playing with Nikita Zaitsev on the first pair.
Rielly attempted to return shortly after going to the room the first time, but quickly called it a night afterward.
Given the location of the injury, which appears to be his right leg, there may be reason for concern. In Rielly’s draft year, he missed the bulk of the season due to an ACL tear suffered in November 2011. This may have been one of the reasons that the Leafs were able to snag him with the 5th pick in the 2012 draft, as a lack of games saw his stock fall from the “Discussion for #1” territory.
As far as replacements go, the most NHL ready left-handed defenceman in the system, save for rushing Martin Marincin back, would likely be Marlies rearguard Rinat Valiev. All the same, it would be a real disservice to Frank Corrado if this didn’t end up his opportunity to draw in, especially hot off the heels of his 14-day, 7-game conditioning stint.
The Leafs are currently running the game with five defencemen, with both Matt Hunwick and Jake Gardiner taking on extra responsibility.