On Saturday night hockey fans in Edmonton were treated to a showcase of top-end 2012 NHL Draft talent. Griffin Reinhart, a defenceman on the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL), led the team against a Red Deer Rebels team featuring Matt Dumba. The two blueliners are projected to be high first round draft picks at this year's NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. Their junior squads faced each other at Rexall Place on Saturday night, with Reinhart's Oil Kings sending the fans home happy with a 7-4 win over the Rebels. Reinhart finished the game with an assist and an impressive +4 rating. He also racked up 12 penalty minutes in a chippy game. By comparison, Dumba had three points, a +2 rating and no penalties in the loss.
There are similarities between the two rearguards. Both are considered near locks to be top-15 picks, and both possess leadership qualities, as seen by the "A" on their jerseys. Aside from that, however, the commonalities are few and far between. I had the chance to catch up with both players following Saturday night's contest.
"I'd say that I'm a pretty simple defenceman, kind of a two-way player. I try not to model myself after too many players, obviously I'll try and take the key aspects out of players at the NHL level but I strive to play my own game," he said when asked to give a self-scouting report. When asked about his biggest asset, the six-foot four, 202 lb son of former Calgary Flame Paul Reinhart pointed to the obvious.
"I think size right now is my biggest asset, it's not something you can teach."
One of the advantages Reinhart has over other prospects is his family ties. As earlier mentioned, his father was a former first-round pick himself, chosen 12th overall in 1979 by the Atlanta Flames. After the franchise relocated to Calgary, he spent nine seasons in Alberta before finishing his career with a two-year stint in Vancouver.
"He got us into hockey and I've always grown up with that. Honestly for me I wouldn't know what it'd be like to have a father that hasn't been in hockey so it's been pretty normal for me. He'll call us after games and tell us what we need to work on."
Also in the Reinhart family are Sam and Max. Max, the oldest of the three brothers, followed in Paul's footsteps in being selected by the Calgary Flames organization 64th overall in 2010. Sam, the youngest, is not draft eligible until 2014, where he will likely be a top-10 pick. Both Sam and Max Reinhart suit up for the WHL's Kootenay Ice.
"It's a possibility (being selected higher than Max) but we don't really think about that too much. We're not really competing with each other for who goes higher. Both of our goals are to play in the NHL. He already has a professional contract and I'm pretty happy for him," said Griffin about competing with his older brother.
Griffin, who is ranked eighth amongst North American skaters by NHL's Central Scouting, should hear his name called early in Pittsburgh. He projects as a second pairing defenceman who can play on the powerplay. He brings size, mobility, sound positioning and a fair amount of offense (35 points in 55 games). His shot is one of his better skills as well, and he can run a powerplay. Scouts would like to see him use his body more to his advantage and add more grit to his game. The player most comparable to him at the pro level would be Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks.
Dumba is perhaps the sexier of the two defencemen. His thundering body checks have made him a YouTube star and increased his profile amongst casual hockey fans.
"I guess I'm a two-way defenceman. I like to have the puck and I like to make plays with it. On the other side of things I like to be physical and throw my body around," Dumba said about his playing style. "What allows for that is my skating ability, which is very, very good and I think is elite amongst draft prospects."
In his own words, his biggest strength is his compete level.
"Competing. Competing all over the ice. Just the little things, and make sure I'm working hard all the time. That allows me to showcase my skills."
Dumba draws his inspiration from a Canadian Olympian.
"I think it'd be pretty cool to someday be like Drew Doughty. He's an amazing player and I really like him. I think all young defencemen would like to be like him one day," Dumba said of the 2008 2nd overall selection.
Based on his style of play and the history of the Red Deer Rebels, Dumba has often heard himself compared to Toronto Maple Leafs captain and former Rebel Dion Phaneuf. "I'm not sure the comparison goes much beyond the physical aspect of the game, but to be mentioned in the same sentence as Dion is just amazing."
Although Dumba lacks the bloodlines that Griffin Reinhart has, he found his own mentor in learning the nuances of his future career.
"I worked out with Braydon Coburn this summer. I always talk to him, about when he played U18's and when he was in the WHL, draft, everything like that. It's great to have a guy like that you can talk too," Dumba said of the Philadelphia Flyers defenceman.
Dumba was ranked seventh in the NHL's Central Scouting rankings, one spot ahead of Reinhart. His career is more difficult to project than Reinhart's and comes with more risk. The main question is if his offensive abilities will translate to the NHL. There is also the issue of his decision-making, which sometimes leads to odd-man rushes going the other way. Can he reign in his desire for the big hit or big goal and focus on his defence? Dumba needs to get stronger as well, as he can be outmuscled on the puck. There has also been concern amongst scouts as to whether Dumba's smaller frame (six-feet, 183 lbs) will withstand the rigours of pro hockey. His stick work needs to improve as well.
His positives are incredible offensive instincts, the ability to run a powerplay, an impressive shot, grit and a thirst for contact. He projects to be a top-pairing defenceman whose calling card is on offense and will have questions about his defensive game linger, similar to his idol Drew Doughty.
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