Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Lisa McRitchie on 06/23/12 at 11:35 AM ET
In the first round, with their fourth pick the New York Islanders have selected Griffin Reinhart from the Edmonton Oil Kings, a player that was project to go pretty much anywhere in the first round of this year’s draft.
Reinhart didn’t get off to the hottest start this past season, and it wasn’t until teammates left for the World Juniors camps that Reinhart seemed to find his edge and real drive, but you knew all season long that he was a player to watch. And now it seems that it was the New York Islanders that were successful in “fall apart for Reinhart.”
While admittedly most every team in the NHL is looking to make improvements to their blue line this off season, it was the New York Islanders that have made the biggest strides to this point. By trading for veteran Lubomir Visnovsky and now adding Reinhart, that gives the team a slight edge in terms of moves.
Reinhart is a passionate player who has a little Chris Pronger and Shea Weber type play in his game, but it is the gritty and even mean seeming play that garners Reinhart the most attention. With an impressive Memorial Cup run with the Oil Kings Reinhart played a total of 78 games with 58 penalty minutes. He also finished a +23.
Reinhart has never been to Long Island, and he was a little stunned to be picked there,“I really didn’t talk to them to much throughout the year, so I really wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting to go anywhere, I was just going with the moment, but I’m really happy that I ended up here.” And so it’s a selection that suits him just fine.
With a father who was told he was drafted by a phone call after a practise, Reinhart had to draw from the experience of his older brother, forward Max Reinhart who was drafted by the Calgary Flames. The tallest, toughest, and only defenceman of the three brothers has now been drafted the highest and has set the bar for younger brother Sam who may be drafted even higher yet.
Just how and when Reinhart will fit into the lineup is of course yet to be see. But he is being welcomed with open arms. Minutes after being drafted Reinhart was already receiving phone calls from his new team. “I already got a few phone calls from some of the players including Tavares so it’s really cool that they’re already welcoming me. I was a little star struck when he actually called me, I didn’t think that they would do that.”
And of course there are some players he is excited to play with “There’s a lot of them, John Tavares I saw when he was drafted first overall so that was probably the biggest pop out name and I saw some of the other players that were drafted out of the WHL that are playing over there.”
Knowing that it is a huge honour to be selected to high in the draft with so many other defencemen Reinhart talks openly about his ambitions of making the team sooner rather than later “It’s a great honour to be picked as a defenceman in the first round and I’m going to do everything I can to prove them right.” But also recognizes that he may need another year in the WHL, a year that he has spoken of fondly throughout the season.
“I think that everyone is going to be disappointed when they don’t make a team right away but at the same time I’m really concerned about improving to the best that I possibly can be and if that means playing another year in junior I’ll be okay with that. I’ll just use it as motivation to get better throughout the year.” And another year in the WHL may be exactly what a young defenceman needs to give him leadership and winning experience that will help him with the rest of his career.
“The Oil Kings have a bright future ahead of them still, and they are supposed to have a strong team this year coming too. So if I’m not there which is realistically a good chance too, so I’m really looking forward to that year too.”
The New York Islanders may want Reinhart to play right away, after all they have only 5 signed defencemen at this moment in time, but they may also recognize the positives in having Reinhart make another run for the Memorial Cup with the Oil Kings. If given the opportunity to play in the NHL this season, I have no doubts that Reinhart will be able to handle the physical challenges but will like all rookies have his ups and downs. Until the Islanders make more decisions on their back end though, it is hard to say where he will fit with any certainty. One thing that is certain however, is that Reinhart can eventaully be a top pairing defenceman, especially if he is working with a team such as the Islanders that need passionate players to help them find success.
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