Within the cornball-sized grains of this YouTube video resides the undying hope Leaf Nation has placed on No. 5 overall pick Morgan Rielly.
As BTN's own Cam Charron phrased it, "I'm sure at some point we'll contextualize Rielly's season, but the above goal is a fun display of what the kid can do." In the second period on Wednesday, Rielly's defence partner on the Moose Jaw Warriors, 18-year-old Travis Brown, delivered a turnover-causing check on the Lethbridge Hurricanes' Jaimen Yakubowski. Rielly accelerated, picked up the puck, split defenders Russell Maxwell and Ryan Pilon and tucked the puck into a top corner for a highlight-reel goal.
Rielly has had many bits of brilliances in his post-draft season with Moose Jaw. With 16 points in 13 games, he's unofficially tied for first with 20-year-old New York Islanders prospect Brenden Kichton for points per game (1.23) by a defenceman in the Western Hockey League, followed closely by the Brandon Wheat Kings' Ryan Pulock (1.21), who is a likely NHL first-rounder next summer. (The Kelowna Rockets' Myles Bell is listed as the leading defenceman scorer but he's actually played wing for much of the season.)
It's almost rare to see a junior player have that much time and space to do the dipsy-dangle do and score in today's often-overcoached game. Rielly just blasted off after he took the puck, then set up the two Lethbridge players with a head fake and was by them and in on goal before they knew what had happened. That was just evidence of someone being vastly superior in a setting full of other perfectly capable teenaged hockey players — and it's why Leafs fans hope against hope Rielly will blossom for the Buds. Just give the 18-year-old another couple years.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.