Maple Leafs players make push to get Morgan Rielly into all-star game

NHL Insider Chris Johnston discusses the return of Zach Hyman to Toronto’s lineup as well as William Nylander’s continued struggles.

NEWARK, N.J. — The Toronto Maple Leafs are making a list-ditch effort to drum up support for Morgan Rielly before polling closes on voting for the NHL all-star game.

While the team took the morning off before visiting the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, its Twitter account went into overdrive pumping out homemade videos with Leafs players backing Rielly’s candidacy.

"Elite defender, should be in the all-star game. Leads defencemen in goals, above average teammate. Do what you’ve got to do," said Nazem Kadri

Rielly is on the ballot for the NHL’s new "Last Men In" feature, which allows fans to vote for the last player added to each divisional all-star team. He’s up against Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Jeff Skinner (Buffalo), Dylan Larkin (Detroit), Aleksander Barkov (Florida), Shea Weber (Montreal), Mark Stone (Ottawa) and Brayden Point (Tampa) in the Atlantic Division.

Rielly is in the midst of a career season — already with 13 goals and 45 points, the second-highest total among NHL defencemen behind Brent Burns (49) — but didn’t seem too bothered when he was passed over for the all-star team last week.

However, with voting due to close late Thursday night, longtime teammate/campaign manager Jake Gardiner channeled his inner Steven Spielberg and created short Rielly pump-up videos that ranged from funny to cringe-inducing.

(It’s fair to say an acting career isn’t in Patrick Marleau’s future when he eventually decides to hang up the skates.)

The Arkells and Toronto mayor John Tory were among the others to take to social media in support of Rielly.

The Leafs currently have two representatives. Auston Matthews was voted to captain the Atlantic Division team by fans before John Tavares was chosen by the NHL’s hockey operations department. There wasn’t room for Rielly or Mitch Marner with each of the league’s 31 teams needing to have a player named.

"In my opinion, having missed the time I did [with a shoulder injury], seeing those three guys, the way they played — Johnny, Mitch and Mo — I think I’d give up my spot for them any day of the week because they’ve had unbelievable seasons," Matthews said when the rosters were announced.

Rielly recently told reporters that as much as he’d love to be in San Jose for the Jan. 24-26 all-star weekend, he didn’t mind the idea of getting some extra rest before the stretch drive.

His teammates, it would seem, have other ideas.

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