Buffalo Sabres Biggest Surprise: Sam Reinhart


Does everyone remember watching Sam Reinhart during his nine-game tryout with the Buffalo Sabres last year? It was tough to watch. Reinhart didn’t have the speed or strength to be in the NHL right out of juniors. We knew Reinhart was upset about being sent back to Kootenay, but boy has he taken that year and improved himself tremendously.

If you compare last year to this year, Sam Reinhart looks like a completely different player.

His foot speed has drastically improved, you can see how much bigger he has gotten and he isn’t getting tossed around nearly as much. He may not be the strongest guy, but he wins some important battles that may go unnoticed.

Want more examples? You’ve got it. His shot has seen major improvements, he’s more aware of the pace and his defensive zone coverage.

Playing on the right of Ryan O’Reilly is going to help any player improve, but Reinhart is much like O’Reilly; he makes the people around him better.

What I’ve always loved about the number two draft choice in 2014 is his ability to make quick and intelligent plays that not only puts himself in a good position, but gives his team a chance to get out of the zone, regroup or create a scoring chance.

His mind is always tactically thinking of where he needs to be and knows what he wants to do if he gets the puck.

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It’s the maturity of Reinhart that could be the most impressive. The kid just turned 20 a little over a month ago.

His poise on the ice is outstanding, but imagine what he did once he got back to Kootenay. He could have just torn up the league with minimal effort.

Sabres General Manager Tim Murray told him he needs to find the time to get to the gym by himself and not only did Reinhart listen, I believe he exceeded the expectations of the staff, players and the fans.

Now for those of you that want to get directly to his stats, Reinhart has posted eight goals and seven assists in 34 games.

Doesn’t seem like that much right? Well, he’s tied for fourth on the team in points with Jamie McGinn, who has surprised Sabres fans with his play, but I’m not terribly surprised about that. He was able to produce on all different types of lines in Colorado.

Reinhart has one less goal than Jack Eichel and his 15 points are more than struggling veterans Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta have produced this year.

At this point, I suggest putting the points away for the young Sabres, especially Reinhart.

Jack Eichel is a separate story with a different set of expectations from me and I’d assume most Sabres fans.

I want to see Reinhart continue to improve in all three zones while getting powerplay time so he can use his deceptive talent to burn opponents.

Adding Reinhart to Eichel, O’Reilly and Ristolainen, that is a solid core of players that Sabres fans should be estatic about.

Before the season, I wrote about Reinhart not being quite ready and we could see him in Rochester to develop.

He has not only proved me wrong, he has exceeded my expectations night in and night out.

I’m 100% alright with being wrong when it means Reinhart is excelling. I couldn’t be happier that he has found his stride so soon and hope he continues to progress into the dominant player he can be.

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I wish everyone a happy holidays! Go Sabres!