Tuesday night turned out to be another opportunity for Sam Reinhart to step out of the shadow of Jack Eichel. The knock on the 23-year-old forward has been his inability to be productive away from the star center. A myth that was once again proven incorrect against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday evening.
Reinhart had two points and the game-winning shootout goal in a 5-4 victory over the Wild. He did this while playing on two lines, neither of which with Eichel. He set up C.J. Smith for his second career goal with a beautiful pass early in the second period. Later in the game, he scored their fourth goal while playing with Conor Sheary and Casey Mittelstadt.
The 2014 second overall pick has played most of this season with Eichel and Jeff Skinner on a line that has done very well. All three players feed well off each other and were one of the more dangerous lines in the league.
It was time for a split, however.
Playing without Eichel isn’t something knew for the Canadian-born forward.
He’s played in 15 games this season where he spent three minutes or less at 5 on 5 with Eichel. In those 15 games, Reinhart has four goals and nine points at 5 on 5. According to Natural Stat Trick, he has a slightly better 5 on 5 Corsi for percentage (50.69 vs 50.37) away from Eichel.
The story is the same for parts of last season. We all remember when Reinhart got hot once the calendar flipped to 2018 during the 2017-18 campaign. He played 22 games post-January 1, 2018 without Eichel and registered 18 points at 5 on 5 over that stretch. Reinhart only played 236:22 total with Eichel last season (838:48 without) at 5 on 5 according to Natural Stat Trick.
He had a better CF% of 52.00 away from Eichel, had a higher SCF%, and HDCF% as well.
Overall Reinhart has 33 even strength points in 66 games over the last two seasons when he has played less than five minutes with Eichel at 5 on 5.
Meaning without Eichel, he’s played at a 41 even strength points per 82 games pace. When you add in his career average of 16 power play points per 82 games, that makes him a 57 points per 82 games winger over the last two seasons without Eichel.
While he may never be that top-six center he was drafted as back in 2014, he has the ability to drive his own line as a winger in the NHL. He’s had a positive impact on a handful of players that have seen their numbers and scoring chances grow. The chart below lays out a few examples.
Again, all of that lovely data is via Natural Stat Trick.
It’s often overlooked the impact that Reinhart has on the way that Eichel plays when the two are matched on the same line. You can clearly see above that Eichel is a better 5 on 5 player in terms of possession and has a better goal differential when he’s on a line with the Vancouver native.
The impact that Reinhart has playing with his former roommate is something that doesn’t jump off the screen when you watch games. He helps Eichel in defensive situations and even at times takes the center responsibilities in the defensive zone. Allowing Eichel to have some pressure removed from his plate in his own end of the ice and gives him the ability to be a bigger part of the offense.
Reinhart isn’t the flashy and speed player that Eichel is. He does a lot of little things well on the ice, has a great hockey IQ, and excellent vision.
He’s an underrated player that is on pace for a career season of 74 points. If he can continue to drive his own line over the last 30 games, it’ll help the Sabres hopes for getting into a playoff spot.