2014 Draft Eligibles: Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart continues the family tradition

Image courtesy of thehockeywriters.com

Sam Reinhart has been one of the more recognizable names in the WHL for quite a while now. The former 15th overall pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft has been a force since joining the Kootenay Ice full time as a 16-year old in the 2011-12 season.

Currently, Reinhart is projected to be the number one overall pick in June’s draft in Philadelphia, but he’s also expected to play a prominent role for Team Canada starting today as the 2014 World Juniors get underway in Malmo, Sweden.

If you’re just a casual hockey fan, you may not know that Reinhart family story. Sam’s father played defense for 11 NHL seasons with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. His oldest brother, Max, plays center for the Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate in Abbotsford, BC. His other brother, Griffin, was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft by the New York Islanders and currently plays defense for the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.

It’s safe to say that hockey runs through Sam’s blood and it’s ingrained into his DNA.

On the ice, Reinhart is superbly gifted and skilled who can dominate games at will. The biggest thing scouts see in his game his intelligence. From what I have seen, Reinhart is always two steps ahead of everybody on the ice. His hockey sense is as good as it gets for the 2014 draft class, and that’s why he’s projected to go number one overall.

He also possesses excellent feet and hands, and is creative in the offensive zone. Reinhart currently sits seventh overall in WHL scoring with 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists) in 33 games played. Last season, Reinhart posted 85 points (35 goals, 50 assists) in 72 games played. In 2011-12, his rookie year, Reinhart had 62 points (28 goals, 34 assists) in 67 games played and was named WHL Rookie of the Year.

I think his overall skating will need to improve if the  6’1,185 pounder from North Vancouver, BC  wants to make the NHL next season. However, with that being said, I really do think it will come down to what team selects Reinhart in June and what openings they will have.

Right now, it looks as if Buffalo has the edge for the number one overall selection. He would be a great fit at center for the Sabres to go along with Cody Hodgson, Zemgus Girgensons, and Mikhail Grigorgenko. It would also be neat if the Islanders free fall continues and he ends up playing with his brother.

Reinhart is not a guy that will get you overly excited like Nathan MacKinnon last year or Connor McDavid next year, but he does everything well. He’s the type of guy you want on the ice in critical situations. He has the complete game at both ends of the ice.

I’ve been trying to find a good comparison for Reinhart for a while now, and the only two players I  can think of are Brad Richards and Henrik Zetterberg. Both Richards and Reinhart are very good passers who see the ice well, and both possess a pretty good shot. Reinhart may grow a bit bigger than Richards. The Zetterberg comparison is strictly because of Reinhart’s excellent two-way game.

At the NHL level, Reinhart projects to be a number one center and he’ll be a team’s go-to guy and future captain. He was captain of Team Canada at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka tourney that won gold, and he also wore the “C” for the gold medal winning Canadians at the 2013 World Under-18 championships. He’s currently the captain in Kootenay. At the U-18s this past April, Reinhart had three goals, seven points and a plus-7 rating playing on a line with Morgan Klimchuck (CGY, 28th overall, ’13) and Connor McDavid.

I know projections and rankings change over the course of a season, but I fully expect Reinhart to be taken number one overall if any other team besides Edmonton has the first overall pick. The Oilers desperately need defense and would probably take Aaron Ekblad.

When it’s all said and done, the youngest Reinhart could end up being the best of the bunch.