The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 5th overall pick in 2012 has had a meteoric rise in 2018-2019. At 24 years of age, Morgan Rielly has gone from 13th in September 2018 to 3rd in January 2019 on Dobber’s Top 100 Keeper League Defensemen list. His PPG is 1.02 compared to his career high of 0.68 in 2017-2018. Can he stay at #3 and maintain his current production, not just in point-only pools but also in multi-category leagues?
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I think it goes without saying that Rielly will not be able to maintain his goal-scoring pace as he is currently on track for almost 22 goals. His shooting percentage this season is 10.2% (and rises to 12.85% at 5 on 5), which is that of a forward. He has increased his shots on net from 2.39/g to 2.61/g from last season which is not a significant jump. His career average shooting percentage was around 4% so I think it’s safe to say that his shooting percentage will revert back to normal after the All-Star break and he should get 3-5 more goals. A 16-18 goal year from Rielly was unexpected, so as an owner, appreciate it and temper your expectation for next season to 10-15. Rielly has seen his PP% rise from 50.8 to 59.1 from 2017-2018 but the Leafs’ PP% has decreased from 25.0 to 22.1. Rielly has scored 1 goal and 15 assists on the PP, and is actually on pace for 1 goal and 25 assists (which is the same as last year) so it’s not on the PP where his production has exploded.
Rielly has really elevated his game at even strength but this might not be sustainable considering a few factors. His PDO is at 105.7 currently (5th highest in the NHL for anyone over 40 games played) and this should tell us right away that this pace should be unsustainable. The Maple Leafs’ even strength shooting % while Rielly is on the ice is above 14%, which is very high. Auston Matthews has proven PDO wrong with the assumption that there will be a decrease (PDO 106.9 in 2017-2018 and 102.1 in 2018-2019) but the same can’t be said for the others in the top four last season: Yanni Gourde, William Nylander and William Karlsson. Digging deeper, Rielly’s IPP at even strength is 45.83, with the league average for defensemen at about 31.00 and his career average being 38.21. His primary assists at even strength are only 10 of the 21 he has to date and that might tell us that he has been fortunate in a few cases with the 11 secondary assists. As for plus/minus, he is at a staggering +23 and has never been higher than a -4 in his career. What makes this number tenuous at best is that his CF% has decreased to 49.95 from 50.85 last season, all while having his offensive zone starts increase from 45.38% to 53.09%. Ron Hainsey has been his defensive partner over 76% of the time this year and last (and complements Rielly very well) but we can’t attribute this to the increase this season as nothing has changed.
After 49 games in 2018-2019, Rielly has really turned an offensive corner. He should finish the year (if healthy) around 16-18 goals and 55-58 assists as his stats revert closer back to his underlying numbers and should be 10-15 goals and 50-55 moving forward into 2019-2020. He has every chance to remain #3 on future lists even with reversion, especially with the talent that surrounds him. He’s a player you should strive to have on your team and build around, and I hope you’re not in a keeper league like mine where one GM has Rielly, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson (yes, he is in first place!).
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