No turning noses up at these country clubbers
Comfortable Hollyburn could yield a pair of top 10 picks in Morgan Rielly, Griffin Reinhart
By Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun
May 12, 2012 3:07 AM
Moose Jaw Warrior defenceman Morgan Rielly (right) is ranked sixth overall for the upcoming NHL entry draft, despite an injury-shortened season.
Photograph by: Don Healy, Postmedia News Files , Vancouver Sun
Mention hockey and country club in the same sentence and here's what you're probably thinking: fat-cats, under-achievers, floaters.
But this is a hockey-and-country club story of a different kind. It's a story of two players from West Vancouver's tony Hollyburn Country Club who have become high-end NHL prospects.
You may have heard about Griffin Reinhart. His dad, Paul, had a distinguished professional career with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. Griffin is currently involved in the Western Hockey League championship series, playing big minutes on the blue-line for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Then there's Griffin's Hollyburn buddy Morgan Rielly - it's pronounced "Riley" thanks to the silent "e" - a swift-skating, puck-moving defenceman for the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Rielly missed most of the 2011-12 WHL season after tearing up his right knee in early November. He was out for five and a half months. He couldn't participate in the Subway Super Series or the Top Prospects Game, and only returned to the Warriors' lineup April 20, just in time to face Reinhart and the Oil Kings in the WHL's Eastern Conference final. (The Warriors lost in five.)
It was quite the reunion for Rielly and Reinhart, who were born six weeks apart in 1994 and learned to skate together at Hollyburn. They were teammates throughout their minor hockey days and even played Little League baseball together. When it came time for the WHL's bantam draft in 2009, they were picked one spot apart, Rielly going second over-all and Reinhart third. Now they are heading for the big one: the NHL entry draft June 22-23 in Pittsburgh. Numerous scouting services have Rielly and Reinhart both going in the first round, maybe even in the top 10.
Two kids from Hollyburn in the top 10 - who knew? Where are their tennis rackets?
"It's been a pretty interesting ride up to this point," noted the 18-year-old Rielly, who is back home in West Van and training under Peter Twist. "I met Griff when I was probably around four. We were just starting to play hockey and skate in a program called 'Cookie Monsters.' I wouldn't even say it was hockey. We were just kind of on the ice. "After that, we were always on the ice together. We started to play on a team together in atom. Our last year together was in Grade 8, but then we both had the opportunity to play on Team Canada at the under-18s in the Czech Republic. So that was pretty special."
As a top youth player, Rielly resisted the urge to join one of the elite minor hockey programs at either the North Shore or Burnaby Winter Clubs. He was quite content sticking close to home and wearing Hollyburn colours.
"I was pretty happy with the way everything was happening at Holly-burn with our coaches and our teams," he said. "We weren't always great, but we had a good time and had the opportunity to travel a bit and play in some tournaments. It was always a great year playing hockey up at Hol-lyburn. I can't complain."
When he was in Grade 9, Rielly moved to Wilcox, Sask., to attend Athol Murray College of Notre Dame and play for the Hounds. He then moved on to Moose Jaw and the Warriors two years later. He had 28 points in his rookie WHL season and was averaging a point a game this season - 3-15-18 in 18 games - when disaster struck in a Nov. 6 match against the Calgary Hitmen. He hurt his right knee and an MRI revealed the worst outcome: a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
He came home to meet with Vancouver orthopedic surgeon Bill Regan, familiar for his work as a Canuck team doctor, and it was Regan who repaired the tear.
"I had never experienced anything that harsh before," said Rielly, listed at six feet and 190 pounds. "It was totally new to me. Having an injury like that isn't exactly how I planned out my draft year, so it was kind of a curve ball. But it happens in hockey and I just had to cope with it. Dr. Regan was unbelievable. He treated me like a pro. He was great, outstanding. I think, at the end of the day, it was an experience that could help me, but it was extremely tough, for sure."
Obviously, Rielly had enough credit with the scouts to maintain his draft status. He's ranked sixth overall by The Hockey News, and eighth over-all by both the International Scouting Service and McKeen's Hockey. The Central Scouting Bureau, which divides its players into skaters and goalies, and North American-trained players versus Europeans, rated Rielly the fifth-best North American skater.
"I'm pretty happy that I'm still up there in the draft rankings," he said. "I mean, it's a confidence thing to be up in the top 10. I am trying not to concentrate too much on that, but it's pretty nice."
Rielly has been likened to a cross between Brian Leetch, Duncan Keith and Kris Letang, but fancies himself more of a Letang-type, minus the long, dark hair. Rielly is blond and blue-eyed, a testament to his Irish-German ancestry. As for the unusual spelling of his last name, he was unaware of its origins.
"I don't know how it happened," he chuckled. "I'm not sure if it's a typo or who chose it, but it's always been spelled like that."
It will be the first test for the NHL team that drafts Rielly in Pittsburgh come June 22.
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