Ghost of the Future: Sam Reinhart

Remember this guy?  He's had a heck of a season! Photo from sabres.nhl.com

Remember this guy? He’s had a heck of a season! Photo from sabres.nhl.com

The NHL draft lottery has finally passed. If you’re sick of hearing about McDavid and Eichel, about Edmonton’s inability to structure an adequate team, about how Buffalo won in losing, then I’ve got good news – this article is not about that. It’s a ghost story, of sorts; it seems that we here in Buffalo have a tendency toward fixating on one thing; call it “Buffavision.” Our myopic maladies aside, the season didn’t give us much to do other than set our sights on the future; unfortunately, in doing so, we forgot someone who will be very important to us in the future: young Sam Reinhart.

Reinhart captained Team WHL in the Subway Series.  Photo from Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Reinhart captained Team WHL in the Subway Series. Photo from Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Reinhart rocked the blue and gold for nine games early in the season, and since his departure, we haven’t heard much about last year’s second overall pick. He’s been busy, though; not only was Reinhart alternate captain for Team Canada’s Gold Medal bid in the World Juniors this last January, he was also captain of his Kootenay Ice, as well as captain of Team WHL – an all-star team of sorts, which tours Canada playing similar teams from other Junior leagues. Reinhart completed his 2014-2015 campaign with Kootenay with 65 points – third on the team in scoring, despite playing nearly 25 fewer games. Following a game seven loss to the Calgary Hitmen, Reinhart donned the red, white and blue and skated in the three final Amerks games in Rochester.

When we last left Sam Reinhart, the emotional teen was disappointed to be leaving the Queen City. His trial by fire probably wasn’t fair, really; Sam spent most of his time in the bottom six, playing against checking line brutes that out-muscled the kid at every turn. He rarely got the opportunity to connect with players that would benefit from his skill set, and vice-versa. He averaged fewer than ten minutes a night, and so perhaps the greatest benefit of his time here was getting a feel for the game; watching how plays develop at the NHL level, learning how to battle with the big boys, and taking the big hit.

Reinhart was disappointed but motivated when he left Buffalo.  Photo from sabres.nhl.com

Reinhart was disappointed but motivated when he left Buffalo. Photo from sabres.nhl.com

During his time in Buffalo, it was evident that Reinhart needed to put on some weight in order to be effective in the NHL, and that he needed to change his game – to develop his hockey sense. Reinhart is a gifted scorer, but the NHL game is designed to shut down scorers. In order to advance, Reinhart recognized that he had to shift his focus toward two-way play and increasing his face-off percentage; it didn’t take long for Reinhart to hit his stride. GM Tim Murray complimented Reinhart’s play in the World Juniors tournament, saying “He’s taking important faceoffs, making plays defensively. He’s chipping in to every aspect.” When a player like Reinhart gets sent back to Juniors, it can be demeaning, but Reinhart seems to have risen to the challenge and elevated his play. As the team develops, it will be good to have players like Reinhart to lead by example and to demonstrate the benefits of hard work.

Time in Rochester was a great measure of Reinharts development.  Photo from rochesterhomepage.net

Time in Rochester was a great measure of Reinharts development. Photo from rochesterhomepage.net

The opportunity to play in Rochester was a perfect end to Reinhart’s season. He himself admitted that it was good for him to test his skills and see how far he’d come. He had three assists in his three games, and spent a lot of time with late-season standouts Phil Varone and Johan Larsson, who spent time in Buffalo spelling a litany of injured forwards. Larsson says of Reinhart, “His hockey IQ is really high. He’s a really talented guy.” His return to the pros wasn’t perfect – he’ll still need to put on some muscle in the off-season to be stronger on the stick and to be able to better battle for the puck, but developing chemistry with emerging players like Varone and Larsson is key. These three players are going to have an impact in Buffalo, and to see the three of them come together almost immediately gives a refreshing sense of hope for the future.

Buffalo has a lot of good hockey to look forward to. Leadership is going to be key as the team pushes forward with Murray’s plan, and Reinhart and likely draft pick Jack Eichel seem to sweat leadership. This offseason may be one of the most important for Buffalo in a very long time – while these kids continue to develop, they’re going to need to be surrounded by players and coaches who can support them and propel them forward. It is nice to know, though, that these self-motivated players will be in our ranks. When this team reaches its pinnacle, there is no doubt that the foundation will be by young leaders such as Sam Reinhart.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. RIP Marcel Pronovost; Isles-Caps Game 7; Price gets pranked (Puck Headlines) - April 27, 2015

    […] • It’s not just Jack Eichel who will help guide the future Buffalo Sabres. Add Sam Reinhart to that mix. [What’s Going on in Buffalo?] […]

  2. RIP Marcel Pronovost; Isles-Caps Game 7; Price gets pranked (Puck Headlines) | Wolrd Blogs - April 28, 2015

    […] • It’s not just Jack Eichel who will help guide the future Buffalo Sabres. Add Sam Reinhart to that mix. [What’s Going on in Buffalo?] […]

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