Hollyburn heaven: West Vancouver’s Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly picked fourth, fifth in NHL Entry Draft
Reinhart taken by the New York Islanders while Rielly a Toronto Maple Leaf
PITTSBURGH — The Vancouver Canucks lost an ardent fan and the Toronto Maple Leafs gained a great prospect Friday when West Vancouver defenceman Morgan Rielly was chosen fifth in the National Hockey League Entry Draft.
The 18-year-old followed his childhood friend and Hollyburn minor hockey teammate Griffin Reinhart on to the draft stage as two British Columbia kids were chosen in the top-five for just the second time in four decades. Reinhart was selected fourth by the New York Islanders, a few minutes before former Canucks general manager Brian Burke called Rielly to join the Leafs.
Rielly is a lifelong Canucks fan who went to plenty of games in Vancouver, including some against the mostly hated Leafs.
“I was a big Canuck fan,” he smiled. “But that ended today.”
Rielly said he never did anything crazy as a fan that he now regrets; he never booed the Leafs, never got a Canuck tattoo.
But his friends back in West Van will see how fame has changed Rielly. He'll be wearing a Maple Leaf jersey this summer.
“I don't know,” he said when asked about their reaction. “I think they'll be happy for me. I'm certainly happy to go home in the blue-and-white and just kind of brag a little bit to them maybe.
“If you told me back in October, when I was healthy, that I'd be drafted to Toronto in the top five, I probably wouldn't have believed you. To have this experience has been unreal. It's hard to explain. I'm just extremely honoured to be here.”
Between October and May, Rielly missed nearly six months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a Western Hockey League game with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
He worried that NHL scouts would downgrade him because of the serious injury and even wondered at times if he'd be drafted at all.
“I went through some times when I didn't really know if I'd be a high draft pick anymore or be a draft pick at all,” he admitted on the eve of the draft. “You've got to keep working through it. Just keep battling. I'm certainly happy to have the chance here today to get chosen.”
Rielly returned from injury during the WHL playoffs and played against Reinhart and the Edmonton Oil Kings in the semifinals.
He said he has had no further problems with his knee and Rielly certainly looked fine as he bounded up the steps to the draft stage behind Reinhart. The boys, who have known each other since they were enrolled in a pre-hockey program at Hollyburn when they were three years old, used to bounce together on a trampoline in Reinhart's back yard.
Reinhart, 6-4 and 207 pounds, projects as steady puck-moving defenceman who will play against opponents' top forwards. Rielly, 6-0 and 190, could be a speedy, offensive dynamo.
Reinhart, whisked off the stage for interviews, said he didn't realize at the time that Rielly had been picked right after him.
“I'm really proud of him,” Reinhart, the middle son of former NHLer Paul Reinhart, told reporters. “We'll hang out a lot this summer. We've come a long way since we first started.”
NHL Central Scouting had ranked Rielly fifth and Reinhart 10th among North American-based skaters. But both defenceman, well-grounded and well-spoken, have an “it” factor about them. Canucks senior advisor Stan Smyl, whose son played on Hollyburn teams with Reinhart and Rielly, said the defencemen always seemed destined for great things in hockey.
Since the draft began in 1969, only five players from B.C. have been chosen higher than fourth.
“Griffin always had great size and such poise,” Smyl said. “And Morgan could always skate and make plays. To have two such great players come from this one little club is really remarkable.”
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