Player: Sam Reinhart
Drafted By: Buffalo Sabres (second overall)
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 3 North American skater
Height/Weight: 6'1", 183 lbs
DOB: November 6, 1995 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: WHL, Kootenay Ice
Throughout the entire season, Sam Reinhart has been considered one of the top players available in the 2014 draft class. There's been a lot of debate as to which one of the top four or five players in this draft will top out highest at the NHL level, and Reinhart has one thing that makes him a standout prospect: ridiculous hockey IQ.
It didn't take long for the Vancouver native to find his scoring touch at the WHL level. He was the second-leading scorer for the Kootenay Ice in just his second full season, producing 62 points in 67 games.
Reinhart has been team captain over the last two years and is following two brothers into the NHL. Griffin was a first-round pick of the New York Islanders in 2012, while Max was selected in the third round in 2010 by the Calgary Flames.
Full Scouting Report
Reinhart isn't particularly fast or physical. What he lacks in athletic ability, he more than makes up for with his vision and patience. Corey Pronman of ESPN.com describes the 18-year-old this way:
Between Reinhart and Sam Bennett on a talent level, it's a 2A/2B situation to where I almost debated flipping a coin. However, I gave the edge to Reinhart because he's a right-handed center who is further along in his development curve and projects well defensively. Sam's offensive instincts are off the charts, as he's an elite playmaker with pretty good hands. His skating is average, though, and he's not a huge player, either. This lowers his prospect stock despite his great possession skills.
Ross MacLean, head scout for the International Scouting Service, also sees Reinhart as an exceptional offensive talent. MacLean had this to say about the youngster, according to Kelly Friesen of Yahoo Sports' Buzzing The Net:
He's a great offensive thinker with great skills and a natural nose for scoring goals. He's a very smart playmaker who can really control his time and space well around the puck. He's got a great release on his shot, a release that reminds me a lot of James Neal. He has a natural ability to adapt to his surroundings and seems to build chemistry quickly with whomever he lines up with. He's a quality individual with good character and leadership qualities as well, so not only is the skill there but he brings some very valuable intangibles.
There are a lot of keywords to like when you look over the assessments of Pronman and MacLean: "elite playmaker," "possession skills," "great release." The list goes on. He's not going to bowl anyone over, but the NHL is slowly turning into a more skill-oriented game.
NHL Player Comparison
It can be tough to truly pin down a young player's projection, but Reinhart models his game after Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. Given how strong Reinhart is in all three zones and how smart he is, the comparison seems like a natural one.
Reinhart is smallish, but that probably won't impede his transition to the NHL for the 2014-15 season. He was impressive as an underage player at the WJC in January, and we're looking at a guy who sometimes piles on four or five points a night at the WHL level.
He might not be quite ready for the rigors of the NHL season, but it's clear he has nothing left to gain by going back to juniors for one more campaign.
When you're compared to Toews, that's your top-end potential. That's the kind of player Reinhart could be if the stars align.
He needs to work on his foot speed to be an impact player in the neutral zone, but that's an easy fix for trainers at the highest level—just ask John Tavares.
"Captain Serious" is in the midst of a Hall of Fame career and is only 26. Expecting Reinhart to step in and lead his team like that might not be realistic, but that's his ceiling. He has the smarts and hands to be a No. 1 center in the NHL—potentially of the top-10 or top-15 variety.