Morgan Rielly not surprised by Brayden Point's emergence
There are many that are surprised that Lightning rookie Brayden Point made the team out of camp, much less smoothly stepping in as No. 1 center in a playoff push.
But Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly isn't one of them.
Rielly, who played with Point in juniors with the Moose Jaw Warriors, always felt the 5-foot-10, 166-pound center had the drive and skills to succeed in the NHL.
"I remember watching him at world juniors when I was in Toronto and telling the guys how good he was," Rielly told the Times. "He's always been an underdog a little bit because of his size, but I think he's coming into his own, having an outstanding year and I'm really happy for him."
Point has been arguably the team's most consistent forward this season. And he's been on a roll since returning from an upper-body injury in late January, with 12 points (nine goals, three assists) in the last 18 games. He's been the team's No. 1 center the past three games since Tyler Johnson (lower body) has been sidelined.
Rielly met Point when the Lightning forward was a 15-year-old callup with Moose Jaw.
"When I met him, he was the smallest guy in the room by 30 pounds," Rielly said. "But he worked hard, had a lot of heart and a lot of skill. There was never any question about his skill and his brain. He was always the smartest player on the ice. He's worked very hard to put on some weight and he looks outstanding. I never had any doubt he'd find his way. But to do it this quickly, have this kind of impact at his age, it's been really fun to watch."
Rielly, the fifth overall pick in 2012, has been in the NHL since the 2013-14 season. The story goes that the Lightning discovered Point when scouting Rielly at Moose Jaw in the 2012-13 season.
"I guess he owes me dinner," Rielly said.
And Rielly said he tried to put a good word in about Point to the Leafs brass over the years. Point was picked in the third round in 2014.
"I remember talking to maybe even a couple scouts with the Leafs, asking how Pointer is doing back in Moose Jaw since they were always traveling," Rielly said. "There was a lot of hemming and hawwing and not too sure. But I always had faith in him. To be where he is now is, you kind of have to smile."