If Maple Leafs fans don’t see Morgan Rielly patrolling the blue line at the Air Canada Centre for another couple of years, don’t fret.

“To me, he is another prospect we will put on slow bake and not rush,” Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins said on Saturday.

“He has come in and he has played well for his age. Obviously, he sees the game offensively very well. He is in a battle defensively. The guys are bigger, stronger, faster.”

Rielly played in his sixth game for the Marlies on Saturday afternoon, and the 19-year-old is trying to leave behind a season that hasn’t been overly kind.

Yes, Rielly rebounded as good as he could have hoped from a 2011-12 year that mostly was wiped out after he had knee surgery. There wasn’t a problem with the knee and Rielly wound up with 54 points (12 goals and 42 assists) in 60 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. He was named the WHL’s Eastern Conference defenceman of the year and earned a spot on the conference’s first all-star team.

But there was disappointment during the Christmas break when Rielly was part of a Canada team that did not earn a medal at the world junior in Russia. And as good as he was, Rielly couldn’t help the Warriors get to the WHL playoffs.

“There have been quite a few ups and downs this year, which I think can help a player grow,” Rielly said as he was surrounded by reporters. “I am quite young still and I have a lot to learn, but I think I have grown a lot this year.”

Now, Rielly is hoping to put those experiences to good use. He scored a goal in his first American Hockey League game nine days ago, and on Saturday, earned an assist on a goal by Brad Ross in the first period of the Marlies’ 4-3 overtime victory.