Though it has been a roller coaster ride since the infamous 10-game win streak in November, one thing is certain this season: star forwards like Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner have been simply mesmerizing. Arguably, each of these first-line forwards has played at their very best since the first puck drop in October. However, the real pleasant surprise may be the one player that we have all been waiting to see shine since being drafted in 2014.
Over the years, Buffalo fans have had to endure a lot (to put it lightly). As the franchise began its rebuild a few seasons ago, Sam Reinhart was among the new players added to the roster when he was drafted second overall. His development, while slow and steady, seems to be right where a number two center (or, sometimes winger for head coach Phil Housley) should be. Not only has his consistency been evident, but he has been a reliable part of the team, showing discipline at the ripe age of 23. But, let’s rewind to his beginnings in Buffalo.
In his first full season of NHL play - 2015-2016 - he earned 42 points. Each season since then, his numbers have increased and as our current regular season winds down, Reinhart has recorded a career-high 55 points in just 61 games played. For all of you mathematicians, he is averaging almost a point per game.
What is also impressive is his +/- numbers. Until this season, he has been on the negative end, but currently sits at a +3 and is coming off of a huge hat trick and home win against Stanley Cup Champions the Washington Capitals this past Saturday. It would be Buffalo’s first hat trick on home ice in 14 months.
In a draft class of 212 players, Reinhart ranks fourth overall in points behind Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, Boston’s David Pastrnak, and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin. These forwards have totaled 281, 269, and 200 career points, respectively. Reinhart rounds out these top four players at 195 career points. And, though this total looks significantly smaller than Draisaitl and Pastrnak, it is also important to consider who he is playing with (for starters, it is not Connor McDavid or Brad Marchand).
Sitting in the shadow of Eichel, Reinhart has really proven his worth on a team that has been struggling for many years through playoff heartbreak, bad trades, poor management, and rebuilding. His smart, two-way playing is finally being rewarded and we cannot wait to see what he does next.
Simply put, Reinhart is just plain fun to watch.