2012 DRAFT PROFILE – Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)

Each week until the entry draft in June, Point Blank will be reporting on the top prospects in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. This week’s profile is defender Griffin Reinhart, ranked as the eighth best North American skater in the CSS mid-term rankings. You can keep a watch on our profiles via the “2012 Draft” tab at the top of the page and check out profiles of Islanders’ young guns filed under the “NYI Prospects” tab.

Paul Reinhart played professionally for 11 seasons, including stints with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, before chronic back pain forced him into early retirement at the age of 29. Now, more than two decades later, Reinhart has passed his hockey talents onto his trio of boys just itching to follow in their father’s footsteps.

Reinhart’s eldest son Max, a 6-foot-1 center, was a third round selection of the Calgary Flames in 2010 and is currently leading his junior team – the Kootenay Ice – in points with 78. His youngest son Sam, a 6-foot-1 center as well, is opening eyes playing alongside Max at Kootenay. At 16, Sam has scored 28 goals in his first full junior season, and should be a top draft pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

But unlike both Max and Sam, Reinhart’s middle son Griffin decided to hone his hockey skills on the blue-line, like his father. Yet, dissimilar to his 5-foot-11 dad and two siblings, Griffin was blessed with a growth spurt that has all National Hockey League scouts salivating. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, the West Vancouver-born Reinhart will be one of a handful of young and talented defensemen on display at this June’s NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.

“My dad taught me everything I know,” said Reinhart. “And as I have continued to grow and mature, it has allowed me to use my physicality in the defensive zone.”

Having just turned 18 in late January, Reinhart’s size and productivity in his second full season for the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings are two reasons why TSN’s Craig Button has pegged him as his sixth best prospect – third among defensemen – in the entire draft.

Still, the mild-mannered Reinhart is undaunted by the pressures bestowed upon him.

“When it comes to mock drafts or projections, I really never read them or pay any attention to them,” said Reinhart. “I really don’t let any of the pressures get to me.

“When it comes time to draft day, I will definitely feel both excited and nervous.”

Nonetheless, Reinhart recalls the first time he stepped onto a sheet of ice, with his dad by his side.

“I was two years old when my dad took me to the rink for the first time,” reflects Reinhart. “It was in West Vancouver, and I remember starting out slow. I really enjoyed it right away.”

Reinhart continued to play locally at the Hollyburn Country Club in Vancouver for the next decade-plus, and as a 14-year-old, he led the Huskies to a provincial title. The Oil Kings took notice and took the hulking 15-year-old defenseman third overall in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.

Before joining the Oil Kings, Reinhart spent the 2009-10 season playing for the Major Midget Vancouver North West Giants, where he once again led his team to a League Championship. He collected 34 points – nine goals and 25 assists – in 32 games. The 2009-10 campaign concluded with a brief two-game stint in Edmonton, where he was held scoreless.

The 2010-11 season would mark Reinhart’s first full taste of junior hockey, as he was entrenched into first-year head coach Derek Laxdal’s line-up. Laxdal, who led the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads to the 2007 Kelly Cup Championship Title, quickly became enamored with his 16-year-old defenseman.

“Griffin is obviously a pretty talented kid, but he is also a great kid,” said Laxdal, who spent a better part of his 17-year playing career in the AHL. He did play a total of 67 NHL games with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Islanders, collecting 19 points – 12 goals and seven assists. As a member of the 1989-90 Springfield Indians – a former Islanders AHL affiliate – Laxdal helped his team earn a Calder Cup Championship. “It is quite obvious that his parents did a great job raising him.”

Earning 23-plus minutes per night, Reinhart registered 25 points – six goals and 19 assists in 45 games. Still, Reinhart looked at his first season as a great learning experience. He was held scoreless in his four playoff games.

“Last year, I learned how to position myself defensively,” said Reinhart, who models his game after fellow British Columbia defenseman Shea Weber, based on his simple approach in his own zone. “I also kept things very simple, and used my size as an advantage.”

As the current campaign approached, Reinhart was looked upon to be even more of a presence defensively.

“Griffin doesn’t play like a 17-year-old,” said Laxdal of his 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman. “He still has some filling out to do, but he understands how important it is to train daily.

“Still, his size, his shot and his overall skill-set are reasons why a lot of NHL teams have been looking at him, and will still look at him as the draft approaches.”

In his 58 games played, Reinhart registered 35 points – 12 goals and 24 assists – and finished the regular season with a +23. Playing alongside defenseman Mark Pysyk, a 2010 first round draft pick by the Buffalo Sabres, Reinhart was an integral part in leading his Oil Kings to an Eastern Conference regular season title.

Family bragging rights will be on the line, as Sam and The Oil Kings (50-15-3-4, 107 points) will open the Western Hockey League playoffs against Max, Sam and the eighth-seeded Kootenay Ice (36-26-6-4, 82 points). Playoffs commence this Friday evening in Edmonton. The Oil Kings won all six regular season meetings.

“Griffin is the whole package,” said Laxdal, who compared Reinhart’s style to Detroit Red Wing defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, based on his ability to lock down a game defensively. “I have heard that he might go between 2nd and 7th in the draft – definitely top 10.

“From our standpoint here in Edmonton, we wish Griffin could stay here for a couple of more years. But comparing him to the other defensemen projected to go high in the draft, I know that he could step into an NHL line-up next year and physically compete.”

Reinhart displayed his overall talents at the CHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna, British Columbia in early February and didn’t disappoint. He scored a goal in leading Team Orr to a 2-1 victory over Team Cherry.

“From what I was told at the prospects game, Griffin showed how big and how strong he truly is,” said Laxdal.

Can the Islanders – for a second consecutive draft – allow another shutdown defenseman to slip through their grasps? Can the Islanders afford to wait on 2011 draftees Scott Mayfield and Andrey Pedan, forcing 21-year-old blue-liner Travis Hamonic to once again fend for himself? Do Reinhart’s bloodlines give him an advantage over the other top draft eligible defensemen?

While not too familiar with the current Islanders pedigree, Reinhart relishes a chance to play in the bright lights and big city of New York.

“New York is an exciting city. There are a lot of attractions,” said Reinhart, a lifelong Vancouver Canucks fan. “As far as me knowing much about the Islanders, I really do not know much about them. What I do know is that (John) Tavares is unbelievable, and they have some good defensemen, who are only getting better.”

The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is less than 14 weeks away.




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