Google ‘Griffin Reinhart’ or search on twitter and you are likely to find endless negative passages about him from Oilers fans. In a real way, Reinhart never had a chance to be a popular Oiler, certainly not at the level he had been as an Oil King. And of course, the Leftorium made acquiring GR a strange item in the first place.
None of those items has one thing to do with this ranking. Griffin Reinhart is falling down these rankings because, despite being the No. 4 overall pick in 2012, he has not impressed enough in pro hockey to establish himself as a strong NHL option. Approaching the halfway point of the final year of his entry-level deal, Griffin Reinhart appears to be at a crossroads.
PREVIOUSLY NO. 13 ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: C Jesse Niinimaki (0) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2005: C Jonas Almtorp (0) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2006: D Bryan Young (17) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2007: L Liam Reddox (100) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2008: L Slava Trukhno (0) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2009: L Phil Cornet (2) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2010: C Ryan Martindale (0) (GM: Steve Tambellini)
- December 2011: L Tobias Rieder (173) (GM: Steve Tambellini)
- December 2012: L Tobias Rieder (173) (GM: Steve Tambellini)
- December 2013: D Taylor Fedun (18) (FA signing, GM Steve Tambellini)
- December 2014: D Martin Gernat (0) (GM: Steve Tambellini)
- December 2015: D Caleb Jones (0) (GM: Peter Chiarelli)
If the author of the rankings is doing his job right, this is what a rankings list should look like at No. 13. The only actual NHL player is Tobias Rieder, and the rest fell away before establishing themselves as NHL players. Griffin Reinhart has played in 37 NHL games already, and will likely have graduated by the summer list.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus: What separates him from other big defensemen is that he has the puck skills to make people miss, execute all the little plays in tight quarters, and to deliver crisp, accurate passes consistently. Reinhart also has a more aggressive offensive element to his game as he will join the rush and doesn’t shy from being creative in the offensive end of the rink. He also has a pretty big shot from the point that he can put a lot of his big frame into. The thing that has seen Reinhart establish himself so well in the industry has been his improvements.
- Grant McCagg, tsn: Strengths: Very few 6-4 blueliners can skate and handle the puck like Reinhart, and those attributes alone will intrigue lots of scouts. Has a hard point shot that often finds its mark, good passing skills. Weaknesses: Does not always play with an abundance of passion and drive. Could be more assertive physically, and more consistent in his effort.
- BJ MacDonald, central scouting: “He’s got nice, soft hands for a big defenseman, can run the power play and has a big shot — both the wrist shot and slapper. He moves the puck as well as anyone in this year’s draft and I like the way he thinks the game. He’s got a nice pro style that will make for an easier transition to the (NHL).”
- Craig Button: He has a an excellent understanding of the game with a composure and patience that may suggest a lack of urgency but don’t be confused, his competitive waters run deep and he’s capable of being aggressive and assertive when necessary. He is a very good skater with strong balance and agility and along with his size, he is extremely difficult to break down 1-1 and gain an advantage on. He uses his body effectively and doesn’t lose position and is capable of punishing opponents. His vision is very good, he sees the play unfolding, knows what his options are and is capable of doing this very quickly. He makes very good plays in all areas of the game and ones that gain advantages for his team. His offensive skills continue to evolve and he is increasingly confident creating offense. Griffin has an assuredness in his play and along with his skill and physical attributes, makes him a player who has a chance to be an impact player in the NHL.
MEMORIAL CUP ANALYTICS
- Megan Richardson: “What is there to say about Griffin Reinhart? Here’s a guy who played probably every even strength shift against the Petan line or the De Leo line, two monster entry and possession lines. At the beginning of the regular season, those six players carried the puck in an average of 84% of the time. And yet, playing against that top competition, he had the greatest percentage of break-ups and fewest shot attempts against per entry of all Edmonton’s defensemen, rivaled only by Irving, who played cupcake minutes. To see the true impact he had on entries, we can look at his defensive partner Ashton Sautner, no slouch himself, and see how he got burned. After seeing this, I don’t disagree with his choice as MVP of the series.” Source
PREVIOUS TOP 20 RANKING
- Summer 2015: No. 4
- Winter 2015: No. 5
- Summer 2016: No. 10
- Winter 2016: No. 13
The reason he was drafted No. 4 overall, and the reason Edmonton traded for him, are contained in the words of Megan Richardson above. We are not seeing those skills in evidence enough to project him into the NHL as a regular, but last season he wasn’t that far behind Darnell Nurse:
If you glanced at those numbers without knowing the names (and the organization’s devotion to said players), it would be reasonable to walk away thinking these prospects are fairly close together. Their projected futures based on these numbers should be somewhat similar, but in the months since the end of the 2015-16 season, things have changed.
Photo by Mark Williams, all rights reserved
REINHART IN THE AHL
These are the Reinhart AHL numbers, I can tell you the NHLEs going back to junior are not terribly different than his first two pro seasons. His WHL NHLEs were 12.4, 13.74, 10.88 and 10.33. His AHL NHLEs are 14.37 and 12.84. We knew on his draft day (as above scouting reports show) that a lot of his value would come from his defensive play, and the offense over (now) six seasons plus five games confirms it. Breaking news: We have this side of his skill set surrounded.
You may not hold a shutdown defender in high value, but there is zero doubt Reinhart was a good one in junior. His inability to transport those skills to the pro level are the reason we are discussing this player so late in the process this year.
Get the sense after Reinhart didn't grab it and the indifferent play of one of the vets that the Oilers still exploring options to upgrade D
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) October 7, 2016
As per Gerry Fleming in @OilersNow. Griffin Reinhart is in Edmonton getting his back looked at by Dr. Naidu.
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) November 9, 2016
- Lowetide blog, September: Griffin Reinhart had a poor outing. He scored a goal, but was caught flat-footed several times, made some decisions you should not see from a player with his experience and generally looked unready. Reinhart always looks (to me) as though he is playing himself into shape, while all these other fellows are already there. Source
- Griffin Reinhart: “I put a lot of work in in the off-season. My strength, lots of power-skating. be more aggressive, play with more urgency, closing on people.” Source
- Lowetide blog, October: Playing on what looks like the top pairing with Jordan Oesterle, he is +2 and the star of a twitter vine that shows him winning a fight. This is a big season for the big man. Source
- Lowetide blog, November: A back issue has him on the sidelines and complicates an already frustrating season for the young defender. He is 4gp, 0-0-0 this year. The thing Peter Chiarelli is going to have to figure out: Is there a place for GR on a team that already boasts LD Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson? I haven’t talked to any observer who ranks him ahead of these players. Source
- Todd McLellan: “Griffin has to improve his game in every area to be a National Hockey Leaguer. He has to get stronger, his (defensive) reads. He has to get down into the American League and understand that because he’s got work to do to get back here. That was the message delivered to him and he accepted it, well.” Source
All of the rest of this post is window dressing. The McLellan quote is the money here, and there is no real way to dance around it. Combined with Bob’s measured tweet that doesn’t mention Kris Russell by name, we get real insight into what the team was thinking entering and exiting training camp. Griffin Reinhart may have another real chance with the Edmonton Oilers and he also may not have one left. This is reality.
Griffin Reinhart’s game at the NHL level was not a far distance from that of Darnell Nurse a year ago, when both men struggled in the NHL. I spoke to Tom Lynn (a player agent and former NHL general manager and assistant general manager) about him on the Lowdown this week. Lynn said a team (like Las Vegas) looking to add Reinhart might feel he could be their No. 5 defender for a decade, and provide a physical edge with reliable play.
It’s also possible the Edmonton Oilers feel Reinhart has a strong future with the organization. A left side of Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Reinhart may be in place in the coming years, offering the club some size and rugged play on the port side. A big part of the story has to be written by Reinhart himself. That McLellan conversation must have been a difficult one and maybe he uses it as fuel to work his way back to the NHL.
THE 2012 DRAFT
- Nail Yakupov, No. 1 overall. Now playing for the St. Louis Blues. Graduated to the NHL.
- Griffin Reinhart, No. 4 overall. At such a young age: Crossroads. No. 13 prospect, Winter Top 20.
- Mitch Moroz, No. 32 overall. Seems to be getting more playing time in the final year of his entry-level deal. Candidate for the Top 20.
- Jujhar Khaira, No. 63 overall. Khaira is one of the few success stories for Edmonton from this draft and is poised to begin his NHL career. Still a reasonable range of possibilities as far as future role, and we wait to see how he will be deployed. No. 9 prospect, Winter Top 20.
- Daniil Zharkov, No. 91 overall. Now playing in the KHL. No longer in the organization.
- Erik Gustafsson, No. 93 overall. Currently in the AHL (Chicago). No longer in the organization.
- Joey Laleggia, No. 123 overall. Small puck mover has offense and chaos. A candidate for the Top 20.
- John McCarron, No. 153 overall. Now in the ECHL. No longer part of the organization.
- Drake Caggiula, not drafted. Passed through the 2012 entry draft, Edmonton signing him in the spring. Some offensive success (7gp, 0-2-2) early in his NHL career. No. 3 prospect, Winter Top 20.
- Matt Benning, drafted No. 175 overall in 2012. I think he might be the real thing. Now at 16gp, 0-4-4, he is mobile and can move the puck. An excellent addition. No. 4 prospect, Winter Top 20.
ROLLING TOP 20
We are a baker’s dozen through the Top 20, and the defense looks deep enough to consider a strength. Even better, more blue to come and that will add to the overall feeling that the cupboards are full. Still only one goaltender, and the wingers are going to be an empty room once Puljujarvi, Slepyshev and Caggiula graduate (Tyler Pitlick played his 50th game last evening, he has now graduated from the list). Reinhart does help in one important area: Pro defensive depth.