Total Season Stats: 77 GP | 22 G | 43 A | 65 PTS
Contract Status: One year remaining at $3.65 million cap hit
Last summer, the debate raged on as to whether or not the Buffalo Sabres would be wise to extend Sam Reinhart to a long-term contract, or make him “prove it” with a bridge-deal. Both parties opted for the latter, and the young winger certainly rose to the occasion.
Across the board, Reinhart’s production placed him as one of the most effective players on the roster. Despite the fact that his underlying numbers had always indicated that the best was yet to come from the 23-year-old, he made a quantum leap in 2018-19. Not only did he best his career-high point total by 15, he also displayed notable improvements as both a shooter, and a possession player.
One of the more prominent criticism’s of his game leading up to last season was the false perception that most of his goals came as a result of standing out front and shoveling rebounds. That’s a valuable skill in and of itself, but that narrative robbed Reinhart of his status as one of the best positional shooters on the team.
As indicated in the chart above, his ability to get himself into prime shooting position is undeniably impressive. A vast majority of his production came between the dots, but many of those chances came from further out, not just as a result of camping near the crease.
Now, this isn’t to say that he’s developed into an elite shooter, because there is certainly room for improvement. Despite holding an excellent average shot distance of just 28.9 feet, his shots-on-target rate of 65.58-percent leaves something to be desired. Still, his positional savvy is what stands out here, and in that regard, it’s hard to find a more effective Sabre not named Jeff Skinner. He’s always been a talented set-up man, but the data shows us a more well-rounded offensive threat, which is what fans expected from the former second-overall draft pick.
As an integral member of the top-six, Reinhart’s positive effect on his teammates cannot be overstated. In fact, he had a positive Corsi impact on every forward with whom he spent at least 50 minutes this season (save for Jeff Skinner, whose Corsi marks remained nearly unchanged both with and without him). One cannot help but wonder just how much more effective a player like Casey Mittelstadt might have been had Phil Housley balanced his lineup by moving Reinhart away from the top line and onto the rookie’s wing.
It is difficult to find any glaring flaws in his game from this past season. A defensively responsible, 65-point winger is a valuable commodity. The only issue is what his contract might look like if he can duplicate (or further improve upon) his production in 2019-20. Should he continue to impress, Jason Botterill will be kicking himself for not getting a long-term deal done last year.
Corsi numbers courtesy of NaturalStatTrick
Shooting chart courtesy of Charting Hockey
Season Grade: A-
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