TORONTO, ON- Sam Reinhart is one intelligent hockey player.
If you read the scouting reports on the 18-year-old draft prospect words and phrases like “cerebral” and “hockey intelligence” stick out.
“His intelligence stands out and he is always steps ahead of the play,” TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button said.
Reinhart ranks as the number one skater on the International Scouting Service top prospects list for the 2014 NHL Draft. It could be his offensive playmaking that pushed him to the top. He tallied 105 points (36-69-105) in 60 games this season with the Kootenay Ice. But it is that hockey IQ that leads to those offensive opportunities.
“I try to focus on it and take pride in the little plays on the puck,” Reinhart said. “That creates space for both me and my teammates. I think I’ve done well with that part of the game.”
The scouting reports say he’s a player who makes the players around him better by putting them in the best situations to succeed.The great thing about that is, for the most part, it just can’t be taught. That innate knowledge and feel for the game is something seared into Reinhart’s very DNA… literally.
Reinhart’s father Paul enjoyed a career in the NHL spanning 11 seasons with the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks. Paul has three hockey-playing sons who are each experiencing their own success: Max, Griffin and Sam. Max was drafted in the third round in 2010 by Calgary and Griffin was drafted fourth overall in 2012 by the Islanders.
“I think a lot of that (hockey intelligence) is from my dad and being around hockey for a long time and it’s not something you can teach to use to your advantage,” Sam said. “I had a conversation with my dad a week or two ago about what I’m thinking on the ice and it was very similar to what he was and honestly it’s not much at all, it comes naturally and it’s certainly a good thing.”
With the good genes and a hockey upbringing, Reinhart’s cerebral style of play is not something he shares with every draft prospect. It’s a term and a label he embraces because not everyone has that skill.
“Everything else that comes like the skill part of it and the strength part of it you can work on that,” Reinhart said. “It’s an advantage to have that part of the game down because it’s not something you can teach.”
Heading into the next chapter of his career, Reinhart is looking to do everything in his power to not only be satisfied with being drafted but to also make that roster out of camp in his rookie season. Luckily for him that hockey intelligence gives him a small boost in the form of confidence and comfort while facing that challenge.
“I think what it does is give you a sense of a comfort,” he said. “You’ve been around the game, you’ve seen that level of play and obviously when you get up there and you make that jump you’re going to be comfortable in that and I’m only going to learn so much more from seeing how my brothers have both handled (transitioning to professional hockey).”
As of Thursday, Reinhart says he’s been through roughly 12 team interviews at the NHL Scouting Combine, including one with the Edmonton Oilers. In fact the Oilers were the first team to meet with Reinhart in Toronto this week. The Oilers hold the third overall pick in the draft.
“It went well. It was a good learning experience in that first meeting. I thought I handled myself well and it was a good time in there.”
The combine presents Reinhart with an opportunity to show a little bit of what makes him a cerebral player but teams will also get a good look at him as a person.
“A lot of it is just based on getting to know someone. Certain teams do challenge you to see how you react but it’s not all about hockey. I think (the meetings) have gone well for the most part.”
Reinhart is an elite talent who, as a member of the ‘Fantastic Four’ (Reinhart, Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett and Leon Draisaitl), is battling to be the number one overall pick at the end of June. It is the cerebral part of his game that largely factors into just how impressive of a prospect he is.
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