In the next edition of The Dean's List, the focus is turned to two potential first round picks that have been competing against each other for several years now. Previously, TDL examined a few defenders in "2012 Defensemen Draft Class" but now we turn our attention to two WHL defensemen impressing early on in the 2011-12 WHL season and are currently battling each other to earn the top draft position among WHL defenders. There is no shortage of franchise defensemen in the 2012 NHL draft class but it appears that the WHL is breeding some of the best of the 2012 crop and both Morgan Rielly and Derrick Pouliot are among the league's elite at the defenseman position.
Morgan Rielly – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Born: March 9th, 1994
2011-2012 Statistics: 10GP – 2G – 7A – 9P, 2PIM, +8
The Dean's List has Morgan Rielly as the third best defender of the 2012 draft class after the likes of Everett's Ryan Murray and Red Deer's Mathew Dumba but Rielly could challenge both players for the top defenseman of the 2012 draft if his strong play continues. The swift skating Rielly (not "Reilly") is quickly moving up many scouting departments' draft lists as he displays his strong two-way game.
Morgan has plenty of competition among blue liners for the upcoming draft but he has played near perfect hockey over the past six months and is establishing himself as a sure-fire first round (likely top ten) pick. Rielly has impressive speed and agility which helps him offensively and defensively to both create and prevent goals. The Vancouver native is a mobile defenseman capable of leading the rush and offensive play with his dynamic skating and puck handling abilities. Prior to the Western Hockey League, Morgan racked up 18 goals and 55 points (43 games) playing for the Notre Dame Hounds AAA Midget team. With the help of Rielly's strong play the Notre Dame hounds won both the Provincial and Telus Cup championships. The accomplishments would not go unnoticed as the Moose Jaw Warriors would make Rielly the second overall pick of the 2009 WHL Bantam draft.
Rielly has remarkable hockey sense and elite vision making him dangerous both on the rush and while defending the opposition. The young seventeen year old is drawing early comparisons to Duncan Keith as scouts love the poise and confidence that Rielly displays on a nightly basis. This past spring, Morgan had an exceptional Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament appearance for Team Canada and was often the team's best player on the ice. Morgan is off to a strong start playing for Moose Jaw as he has registered nine points in 10 games and sits at an impressive plus-eight rating. Look for Morgan to challenge Murray and Dumba as he strives to become a top ten draft pick.
Derrick Pouliot – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)