Sam Reinhart is not a bust. I can't believe I have to write those words already, before he's even played a regular season game.
Reinhart hasn't exactly lit up the lamp so far, scoring no goals in the Traverse City Tournament and not scoring his first preseason goal until Wednesday night. But that shouldn't be cause for concern. If you're upset that Reinhart doesn't look like Steven Stamkos or John Tavares right away, well, you don't know Sam Reinhart.
Reinhart was the first forward taken in this year's draft, so he will always be lumped in with those type of players. But before things get hairy, fans must have realistic expectations for what Reinhart is expected to be.
The scouting report on Reinhart didn't label him has an NHL goal scoring machine, despite the fact that he did put up very good numbers (36+69) in his last season with the Kootenay Ice. That doesn't mean that Reinhart isn't great, his excellence is just exemplified in other forms. His worth comes from his hockey IQ, which we've already seen displayed early on. It's his ability to make the players around him special. Remember his scouting report from ISS?
What makes Reinhart so dangerous is his ability to dominate a game without the flash or constant barrage of risky plays that tend to stick out with other high potential offensive players. Reinhart sees the entire ice and always seems to be at least one step ahead of everyone else on the ice when the puck is on his stick.
Reinhart isn't and never was about the flashy plays. If you've watched pre-season and have been looking for him to blow your socks off with dazzling play after dazzling play, than you're going to be disappointing. But the Sabres knew what they were getting from the start.
Earlier this week we wrote about how Mikhail Grigorenko's story was one of patience. Those same sentiment should be extended to the Sabres most recent first-round pick as well. Reinhart may not be taking the NHL by storm, but that's ok. Not every player jumps into the league right away at 18-years-old. Look at Jonathan Drouin last season. After another year of conditioning, most see him as one of the top prospects in all of hockey.
Reinhart isn't the biggest player in the world either, and there is a big adjustment going from the WHL right to the NHL. He could need another year or two to fully grow into his body, and most importantly it'll more than four pre-season games to adjust to the speed of the league. For a player so reliant on knowing the right place to be at the right time there will likely be some troubleshooting when the game is played at such a faster speed.
At the end of the day, if Reinhart does return to Kootenay there's no need to fret. Odds are that Sam Bennett will be facing the same fate in Calgary. We knew coming into this draft class that it didn't have the flashy talents that some other years have. That doesn't mean that Reinhart can't be something very special.
"He's going to be a top playmaking center in this league," Murray said in the recent Beyond Blue & Gold feature on Reinhart. "Whether it's this year, or down the road, as long as it happens."