With the Buffalo Sabres rookie camp a mere 10 days away, Sabres fans are anxious to see Sam Reinhart back on the ice ahead of the regular season. For Reinhart the draft was a bit of a crazy time. He was projected to either go first or second, but some rankings even had him falling outside of the top 5. With two Sam’s available in the top 5 and both brining different aspects to the ice, it was a matter of preference that would decide Sam Reinhart’s fate.
The Buffalo Sabres liked his leadership and the potential building block he could become and decided to take Sam Reinhart second overall in the 2014 draft. Now the pressure is on him to crack the roster for opening night and turn the Buffalo Sabres into contenders this season… all right maybe not.
Prior to Draft
Reinhart played his fourth year with the Kootenay Ice in the WHL and he had his best year by far. He surpassed the 100 point plateau, recording 105 points in 60 games. He captained the Kootenay Ice after serving as an alternate captain the year before. He showed great leadership on the ice and earned comparisons to the likes of Jonathan Toews. He won both the Brad Hornung trophy for most sportsmanlike and the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s player of the year.
Away from the Kootenay Ice, Reinhart served as captain for two games during the 2013 Subway Super Series for the WHL’s all-stars where he registered one assist. He also laced up for the CHL top prospect game where he captained team Cherry who lost 4-3 to team Orr.
Sam Reinhart also played alongside his broth Griffin Reinhart on Canada’s U20 team at the 2014 World Juniors. Canada came in a disappointing 4th place while Sam recorded 4 points in 7 games.
Much like Aaron Ekblad, Reinhart has been skating with Canada ahead of the 2015 World Junior tournament hoping to once again crack the national teams roster. Despite being on the squad last year and being a second overall pick, Reinhart know’s nothing is given considering Canada’s poor efforts in the tournament as of late. His main focus for this summer has been to impress the Team Canada brass, but soon that focus will shift to impressing Ted Nolan and Tim Murray in Buffalo.
Reinhart did attend an early summer rookie camp which the Buffalo Sabres held, but to say he didn’t stand out would be an understatement. He didn’t look special at all in his first blue and gold showing. He looked slow and slightly out-of-place as he was mismatched and overpowered at every turn. However, this was just his first showing against other NHL prospects and players, lot’s of room for improvement.
While he didn’t stand out at the first Sabres camp, he looked awfully good during team Canada’s exhibition play, proving that his first NHL experience might be a one-off.
The good news for Reinhart is that the Buffalo Sabres wasted no time signing him to his entry-level contract, which seems to point to the future being now in Buffalo. However, in recent years rushing young prospects to the NHL too quickly has not exactly worked out well for the Sabres which is why they may take their time with Reinhart.
The Buffalo Sabres made a lot of roster changes this summer to add veterans to the line-up. One of the reasons they made the moves was to avoid rushing the young rookies coming up. There is no doubt the Buffalo Sabres prospect system is filled with talent, the question is when to bring that talent up.
Right now the Sabres are dressing a top 6 line-up that has Tyler Ennis centring the first line, not exactly what most teams want as a number-one centre. With Cody Hodgson, Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Matt Moulson, Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart and Brian Gionta, the Sabres have a full roster of offensive talent. Sure it might not be the most skilled line-up ever dressed, but it gets the job done.
Right now Sam Reinhart is expected to be the future of the Buffalo Sabres. Sure they’re hoping to land Connor McDavid, but right now Reinhart is already in their possession. He helps bolster the new core, but is it time for him to move into town and takeover right now?
One would argue that right now there isn’t much room for Reinhart inside the Buffalo Sabres top 6, not because there are more talented players, but because he’s not ready for that role. Do the Sabres really want to rush this guy into the top 6 on a bad team or have him play 3rd and 4th line minutes? There is no doubt that Reinhart could crack the roster, but right now is not the time.
Will he play his rookie season in 2014-2015
This is a tough one to answer because Sam Reinhart has the skills to jump right into the NHL, but I think the Buffalo Sabres do the unthinkable and send him back to the Kootenay Ice for one more season. The Buffalo Sabres are going to be a bad team whether they dress Reinhart or not, he’s not going to save the team this season and it’s likely to be another brutal year for the blue and gold.
Send him back to the WHL where he can once again step into the captain role and have a chance to battle for gold with team Canada at the World Juniors. There is no need to rush him into the NHL where he will struggle and be criticized at every turn. He’s going to get hammered at the NHL level playing against bigger, stronger and faster players, why risk his health and burn a year off his entry-level deal?
The Sabres might keep him in blue and gold for the first 9 games, but after that he needs to pack his bags and head back to the WHL for one more season.