The Buffalo Sabres are near the bottom of the NHL standings yet the club has taken some steps in the right direction this season.
Through 45 games played, the Sabres are nine points ahead of where they were a season ago. The Sabres are scoring goals at a pace of 2.31 goals per game which is also an improvement. Last season, Buffalo finished with an average of 1.87 goals per game while the 2013-14 Sabres scored at a pace of 1.83 goals per game.
Sam Reinhart is starting to emerge as an important player for the Buffalo Sabres. Like his club, Reinhart still has room for improvement. However, Reinhart’s game arguably keeps getting better on a nightly basis and he is on track to play a prominent role in Buffalo’s future.
See Also: How They Were Built: 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres]
Reinhart’s Humble Beginnings
Reinhart’s development this season has been shaped by his hockey heritage and past success. A native of North Vancouver, B.C., Reinhart’s upbringing included a healthy history of hockey. Paul Reinhart, Sam’s father, is an 11-year NHL veteran who spent time playing for the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames.
The Reinhart hockey legacy continued from Paul to the next generation with his sons Max, Griffin, and of course, Sam. Forward Max Reinhart was drafted by the Calgary Flames and now is part of the Nashville Predators’ system. Griffin Reinhart is a defenseman who was drafted by the New York Islanders and is currently a part of the Edmonton Oilers organization.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) December 2, 2015
Sam Reinhart has found success at virtually every level of hockey in which he has participated. According to EliteProspects.com, he spent parts of two seasons playing for the Vancouver NW Giants of the BCMML. Reinhart notched 40 goals and 80 points in 39 career BCMML games. Reinhart went on to play for the Kootenay Ice of the WHL over the next five seasons. In 250 career WHL games, Reinhart scored 120 goals and 319 points.
Reinhart Developing Steadily in Buffalo
Reinhart’s hockey upbringing and past success put him rather soundly on the hockey draft radar. Craig Button of TSN ranked Reinhart as the top overall prospect in June 2014 just prior to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Florida Panthers’ defenseman Aaron Ekblad was the top overall pick in the draft while Reinhart was selected second overall by the Buffalo Sabres.
The youngster spent nine games in Buffalo last season where he tallied just a single assist. Rather than keep Reinhart with the club during what ended up being a very difficult season, the Sabres opted to return him to his junior club.
Reinhart had a great year for the Kootenay Ice scoring 19 goals and 65 points in 47 games. He played a prominent role helping Team Canada win gold in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Reinhart closed out the 2014-15 season by notching three assists in three games for the Rochester Americans.
— NHL (@NHL) January 10, 2016
Reinhart’s game needed some work at the beginning of the season. During the opening five games, Reinhart played on a more limited basis averaging about 12 minutes of ice time per game. His skating needed some improvement and it took him five games to notch his first NHL goal in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Since then the youngster has steadily improved on many levels. Reinhart has earned time on the Sabres’ top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane. He has also contributed to Buffalo’s power play scoring four goals and five points with the man advantage. Reinhart’s increased role is evidenced, among other statistics, by his increase in ice time which currently stands at an average of 16:23 per game through 45 games.
Sam Reinhart recently scored his first career hat trick against the Winnipeg Jets. According to NHL.com, the 20-year-old is currently on pace to finish the season with 21 goals and 35 points. The youngster has a strong work ethic and gobs of hockey talent that have served him well throughout his time on the ice. Reinhart will build upon this season and his offensive production is poised to increase going forward while he continues gaining confidence in his game at the NHL level.
[See Also: Buffalo Sabres Number 90 History]
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW