Monday, April 15, 2019

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Sam Reinhart

Forward--Sam Reinhart 
DOB: November 6,1995 (age, 23)
Draft: 2014, 2nd overall
How acquired: Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed: September 19, 2018--2yr./$7.3 million
Final year of contract: 2019-20

2018-19 Stats:  82 games | 22 goals | 43 assists | 65 points | -10 | 18:57 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  331 games | 87 goals | 118 assists | 205 points | -54 | 17:21 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:   Reinhart played the final year of his entry-level deal in 2017-78 and did so in a bi-polar manner scoring only 11 points (5+6) through the 2017 portion of the schedule (38 games) before turning it on with 20 goals and 19 assist through the final 44 games. We know he has a high hockey IQ, displays deft stickwork and despite having average at best NHL speed he's shown that he ability keep up with a speedster like Jack Eichel using his smarts. We also know that despite being drafted as a center, Reinhart plays much better on the wing and also that much of his goal production has come on the powerplay. 

Most in Sabreland are pretty confident that the two sides will come together (on a contract,) most likely before the season starts, and when it happens Reinhart should be back on Eichel's wing. The two second-overall picks displayed a lot of chemistry prior to the start of last season when new head coach Phil Housley decided he wanted Reinhart at center. That was a huge blunder and when Reinhart was moved back to the wing (getting plenty of playing time with Eichel,) it lead to that stellar finish to the 2017-18 season for him. 

What we wrote mid-season:  He's been called the "Forgotten One" in these blogs on more than one occasion and even though he's on pace to put up career numbers again, Reinhart still doesn't seem to get full recognition for the skills he brings to the ice. Housley had moved him around a bit in the lineup but in a November 13 game against Tampa, Housley stuck with him on the Eichel/Skinner line and the trio has combined for 30 goals and 72 points over 20 games with Reinhart wielding a stat-line of six goals and 18 assists over that span. Although his skating is well behind that of his linemates, Reinhart is a very heady player who gets the puck where it needs to go and he's been a top-notch compliment to Buffalo's dynamic duo. Botterill re-signed Reinhart to a two year bridge deal this off season for a team friendly cap-hit of $3.65 million and it might be safe to say that we won't be seeing numbers remotely close to that with any new deal he signs.

Impressions on his play this year:  The probable reason he doesn't get due recognition in Sabreland is because he's not really a Buffalo guy--that rugged battler who carries Michael Peca lunchbox to the rink every day--nor does he have the elite physical talents of an Eichel. In addition, with the way the Buffalo fanbase seems to work he is, and will probably always be, behind the 8-ball in fan appreciation when compared to Leon Draisaitl who was drafted one spot behind Reinhart and who's putting up bigger and far-better numbers in Edmonton.

However, that's not Sam Reinhart. The scouting report on him featuring his uber-high hockey IQ and quiet effectiveness is just beginning to blossom. Reinhart should continue to impact play even after his production plateaus somewhere down the road and he has the type of game that will pay ascending dividends as his career progresses. Sure, like any other player, Reinhart was the beneficiary of playing on a line with Eichel, but he also had an impact on his own line. For a stretch in February he, fellow winger Conor Sheary and either rookie center Casey Mittelstadt or Evan Rodrigues were a legitimate trio with plenty of chemistry and production on display.

The two-year bridge contract Reinhart signed looks as if it will really benefit him as he and the Sabres look towards a long-term contract beginning this summer. 

Questions moving forward:  Can he continue to up his production? Where is his production plateau and when will he hit it? Is a point/game a reasonable career high? Can he carry a second line next year if the Sabres fail to add a legit No. 2 center? Can Buffalo get more out of him even strength? What will he and his agent be looking for contract-wise? 

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

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