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World juniors: Maple Leafs prospect Morgan Rielly bounces back

Morgan Rielly

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS Morgan Rielly, who got the call for the world junior championship, says making Team Canada is right up there with being drafted by the Maple Leafs.

CALGARY—Leafs prospect Morgan Rielly has come a long way in a yearfrom his couch to Team Canada’s blue line.

Rielly might have been on last year’s entry for the world junior hockey championship, but he blew out a knee ligament and missed most of the season with the Moose Jaw Warriors.

“I’m extremely blessed to be healthy and playing again,” said Rielly. “It’s all kind of hitting me now. It’s pretty cool to have the (Team Canada) jersey on.”

A year ago, things were bleak.

“I believe I had a cast on my leg. I was on the couch, watching TSN, hearing about all the people getting a chance to play for Team Canada and hoping that I would have that opportunity. I’m here now. It’s pretty great.”

The team, named Thursday night, had a photo session Friday. They’ll have one more practice Saturday before flying to Finland to continue camp. The tournament starts on Boxing Day in Ufa, Russia.

Rielly says the brief, intense camp and huge media coverage make everything feel like a whirlwind.

“This is pretty new to me. There’s cameras everywhere,” said Rielly. “It’s been over Twitter where I’ve gotten the most reaction from Leafs fans. It’s been unbelievable.”

Like most of the players, Rielly says being named to Team Canada fulfils a dream.

“This is right up there with the draft. This is top of the list,” said Rielly. “This is unbelievable. I’ve had some pretty good karma going around.”

Rielly will most likely get a chance to play against other Leafs prospects plucked from the 2011 draft. Forward Tyler Biggs (22nd overall) and goalie Garret Sparks (190th) are expected to make the final cut when Team USA announces its roster on Dec. 22. Defenceman Tom Nilsson (100th overall) plays for Sweden. – Sports

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