Hockey Canada

Your! Call: Who does Canada need more - Monahan or Rielly?

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Mike Beauvais, TSN.ca
12/3/2013 9:36:10 AM
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Ed. Note: The Calgary Flames announced Tuesday that Sean Monahan would not be made available to Canada's World Junior team.

In a perfect world, Team Canada head coach Brent Sutter would be bringing every eligible NHL player with him to Malmo, Sweden as part of his squad at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship, but that's not where we reside. As it stands, there's the distinct possibility that Minnesota Wild defenceman Mathew Dumba will be the only NHL roster player going.

Nathan MacKinnon isn't about to be excused from the high-flying Colorado Avalanche and the Washington Capitals aren't about to divest themselves of rugged forward Tom Wilson, but the final two names on that last are intriguing options - defenceman Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames forward Sean Monahan.

While the signs seem to indicate that neither will be released, both would provide some NHL-calibre experience (well, as 'veteran' as a 19-year-old can be) to a team short on returning players from last year's roster and experienced with such a high level of play. Only Jonathan Drouin, Griffin Reinhart, Jake Paterson and Charles Hudon are back - and Hudon actually missed the tournament because of injury.

But which of the pair does Canada need more and which is more likely available?

On Monday, Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle called loaning out Rielly, "counterproductive" to his development and director of hockey operations Dave Poulin told the Toronto Sun  that the team viewed Rielly as a core piece moving forward this season.

"I'd say he's a big part of this group right here, right now and we don't see that changing at this point," Poulin said on Friday. "That's the way we're looking at it."

That said, Hockey Canada has stated that the Leafs have not officially ruled out loaning out Rielly.

Rielly's transition to the pro game hasn't been without its rookie year bumps. He's been a healthy scratch six times in 27 games this season and has struggled in his own end at times, especially while partnered with Cody Franson. While the Leafs defence was been far from strong, they do have a surplus of blueliners and the team could easily make do without Rielly (who had a goal and two assists in six games at last year's WJHC) from two weeks.

The former Moose Jaw Warrior's confident puck-handling and passing, as well as his shot from the point, could make him the ideal candidate to quarterback the power play for Brent Sutter's team.

The potential inclusion of Monahan is a more complicated proposition.

Last week, the first-year forward was placed on injured reserve by the Flames with a cracked bone in his foot. He's currently listed as week-to-week.

Now, this injury might conclude any discussion of Jay Feaster loaning out Monahan, but if the timeframe on his injury is accurate, it wouldn't preclude his participation. But the fear of his injury recurring while away from his NHL club could be a concern.

Monahan has inarguably been a more central figure to the Flames this season than Rielly has to the Leafs. On a team needing offence, Monahan sits second on the Flames in both goals (nine) and points (15.) The fact that the former Ottawa 67 is so important to the team's 22nd-ranked offence means that his absence would be greatly felt.

But there is a flipside to the injury. If the Flames can do more than tread water during his absence and find scoring from elsewhere, then there's a chance that Bob Hartley's club would feel more confident about allowing the Brampton, Ontario native to head to Malmo. With no MacKinnon, Monahan could be a fine replacement to centre a line with Drouin.

Yes, the chances of either Rielly or Monahan suited up for Canada are slim, but which of the two would make the bigger impact?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Morgan Rielly (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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