With the fourth overall pick of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Calgary Flames are proud to select, from the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League, Sam Reinhart - are hopefully the words we'll be hearing on draft day.
Even though they have the fourth overall pick, Calgary may indeed get their number one choice. The youngest Reinhart is one of a group of four top prospects eligible for this year's draft, and he has been near the top of scouting rankings all season long. The 6'1", 183 lbs. centre is one of the oldest players available this year, but he absolutely oozes skill and hockey smarts.
Reinhart comes from a strong NHL pedigree. His father, Paul, was drafted 12th overall by the Atlanta Flames. The defenceman played 648 NHL games with the Atlanta and Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks over 11 seasons. He amassed 133 goals and 559 points over that time. Meanwhile, Sam's older brothers - who initially tried to turn him into a goalie - are getting started on their NHL careers. Max, a centre, has already played 19 NHL games for the Flames, scoring a goal and five points; while Griffin, a defenceman, just wrapped up his junior career with a Memorial Cup win.
Sam, however, may be the best of the bunch. His ceiling is of that of a first line centre. He has incredible vision and the tools to match it. He may not be the fastest or most skilled player available, but he can read the offensive zone particularly well, and is often a step ahead of other players. Brian Burke likened him to "Einstein on the ice", and he certainly isn't wrong. When it comes to hockey, Reinhart is positively cerebral.
Reinhart captained the Kootenay Ice last season, leading the way with 36 goals and 105 points in 60 games for the highest point per game ratio of the top prospects in this year's draft. We can go further into his numbers: Reinhart was involved in 45% of his team's offence, again, the highest out of all the top prospects from this year's draft. He was the highest scoring member of the Ice, seven points ahead of linemate Jaedon Descheneau, who played ten more games and is almost a year older. And only 37% of his points came on the powerplay, showing he isn't dependent on the man advantage to score.
He led the Ice to the second round of the WHL playoffs this past season, falling in seven games to the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was the Ice's leading scorer in the playoffs as well, with 23 points over 13 games, and was tied for seventh in WHL playoff scoring despite being knocked out earlier than everyone above him.
Reinhart was, appropriately, named the WHL MVP.
If the Flames do draft Reinhart, it would give them an excellent one-two punch down the middle with Sean Monahan. Combine those two with Mikael Backlund's emergence as an excellent defensive centre, and the three could combine to give the Flames outstanding centre depth: three two-way centres with offensive flairs, albeit some more than others.
Should the Flames decide to utilize his talent elsewhere, he can also play the right wing, an area the Flames have few prospects in.
He could also potentially step into the NHL next season. Reinhart has suited up for Team Canada multiple times now, including winning gold twice with Canada at the U18 tournament (he captained Canada in his second tournament), playing for Team Canada in the World Juniors alongside fellow draft-eligible player Aaron Ekblad, and most recently, playing an exhibition game and practicing with Team Canada prior to this year's World Championship, garnering praise from his coach, Dave Tippett:
"He didn’t look out of place. He carried himself like a pro player. He picked up the things we were trying to do in the drills very well. The biggest thing you could tell — and it’s probably a little bit because of his upbringing — he wasn’t intimidated by the situation at all and just jumped in there and played."
Oh, and why not mention this: he's said his favourite NHL team is the Flames, and despite what else that site says, recently said on Hockey Night in Canada that Jarome Iginla is his favourite player. Um, how can he not become a Flame??
Arctic Ice Hockey (fifth)