by Ray Kuhn
Each season there are players who manage to fly under the radar as it is just too difficult for each player to receive the recognition they deserve. Players can be overshadowed for a number of reasons as well, and one of the bigger ones is teammates with a higher profile (especially on losing teams).
This brings us to Sam Reinhart.
Reinhart was drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres last season, coincidentally the same spot where they selected Jack Eichel this past summer. Unlike Reinhart, who spent 47 games in the WHL last season and three in the AHL (along with nine in the NHL), Eichel immediately has made his presence felt. He arrived with greater expectations than Reinhart and he had received the majority of the attention, until recently.
Reinhart spent three full seasons in the WHL prior to being drafted and improved in each as his point total went from 62 to 85 to 105. While the majority of his production came from setting up his teammates, his goal scoring improved going from 28 goals in his first season to 36 prior to being drafted. Last season he appeared in 47 games and put up 65 goals (including 19 goals).
After tallying just one assist in nine games with Buffalo last season, Reinhart has appeared in 68 games this season with 19 goals and 15 assists. He is still far from a finished product, but he is clearly an ascending player and at just 20 years old,he has plenty of time and room to do that.
While everyone was paying attention to Eichel, and new addition Evander Kane, Reinhart has certainly made some strides. The comparison to Eichel might not be a fair one, but it is inevitable and they two will likely be tied together moving forward (click here for the article): http://thehockeywriters.com/jack-eichel-and-sam-reinhart-nhls-next-dynamic-duo/
“Of the two, Eichel, of course, is the more highly touted player. However, Reinhart has been just as impressive throughout the season. They have very different styles to how they approach the game, but this enables them to compliment each other so well.
Eichel is the flashy speed player who has the ability to give you the highlight reel play on a nightly basis. Reinhart, on the other hand, is more methodical in how he plays the game. He has excellent hockey IQ that allows him to be in the right position to score or create scoring opportunities for his teammates.”
The fact that Reinhart is having success shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, it’s just the timing of it as it has occurred a year or two before it was truly expected.
“Reinhart is third on the club in goals with 18 and scored 32 total points in 64 games played. The most impressive thing for Reinhart has been his improvement from last season to this season. He’s put on the muscle to handle the physicality of the NHL and has vastly improved his skating to an NHL level. Going into the season nobody expected this type of production from the Canadian born winger so soon.”
For seven games beginning in February Reinhart was paired with Eichel and Kane. The three combined for eight goals and 20 points as we received a true glimpse of what can be expected moving forward in Buffalo. With the return of Ryan O’Reilly, Kane will now return to play with him but another young forward, Zemgus Girgensons, will join the two rookie wingers.
Reinart is not going to receive any Calder Trophy votes this season, but in a few years we will begin to see him mentioned as a peer with Eichel and the other rookies garnering more attention.
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