The Buffalo Sabres have selected dynamic Canadian center Sam Reinhart with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft, the league announced:
The Sabres had Reinhart's thoughts on his new team:
Reinhart: I've pictured myself in this uniform quite a few times. I'm thrilled. Thankful. Looks like a bright future ahead. #Sabres2014Draft— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 28, 2014
Reinhart was selected after only Aaron Ekblad, who was taken with the Florida Panther's top selection in the draft.
Reinhart is a special offensive talent who has made steady progress with the Kootenay Ice in the WHL. He scored 105 points in 60 games during the regular season before adding 23 more in 13 playoff games to further establish himself as one of the draft's top prospects.
The hallmark of an elite talent is the ability to stand out every shift against lesser competition. That's exactly what Reinhart was able to do over the past few seasons with Kootenay. Rarely would a shift go by where he didn't make his presence felt.
In turn, he's ready to make a quick jump to the NHL should that be the decision. Or he can spend another season developing his physical tools because there's very little else for him to prove outside of the NHL.
Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com provided comments from Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald, who came away impressed with the center's understanding of the game:
He's extremely responsible in any area of the ice and, as a result, has excellent on-ice positioning. He's exceptional at anticipating and is a very good opportunist. He has the ability to make something out of nothing and can dish effortlessly to both sides. He really thinks the game well.
That's an important and often overlooked factor when it comes to prospects. There are plenty of players with natural offensive skill sets or terrific physical attributes, but unless they can read the play and anticipate one or two steps ahead, they'll struggle to reach their full potential.
Reinhart has the ability to go coast to coast, but he's equally comfortable serving in the playmaker role and letting his teammates shine. He won't have to score 40 goals at the NHL level to make a major impact.
Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun noted Reinhart's response when asked about his his biggest strength as a player:
My hockey sense is what I feel is to my advantage. Everything else I can work on ... I felt that when I (practised) with the Canadian national team in Switzerland (prior to the 2014 World championships), I could keep up with the pace. That gave me confidence.
It's rare for a player with plenty of high-end skill to get so much recognition for an intangible trait, but it's really what sets him apart from the pack. And he clearly realizes that.
What's your projection for Reinhart's future?
Like many upper-echelon prospects, the biggest obstacle between him and NHL success is learning to deal with the physical side of the game. He has dominated the lower levels thanks to his ability, but it takes more than that to succeed against teams that take away far more time and space.
So Reinhart would benefit from adding more weight to his frame both in terms of winning battles and also surviving the long grind of an NHL season.
Otherwise, all of the tools are there for him to develop into a top-line center, an extremely coveted commodity. And given his intangible traits to go along with that natural talent, the amount of bust potential is low.
Reinhart has been on the radar as a top prospect for a quite some time and the pressure never bothered him. He should have a very bright future ahead, even with the expectations of a high pick on his shoulders.