Where Does Reinhart Fit For Islanders?
With the New York Islanders making a perfect start to the new NHL season, spirits are high on Long Island.
The franchise has designs on returning to the play-offs this season, but a bevy of top prospects ensure the clubs long term future is also bright.
Griffin Reinhart is almost certainly part of that future – but can he hold down a place with the club this season? And perhaps more importantly, should he?
Reinhart was solid in both games against Carolina, logging just shy of 17 minutes in Raleigh on Friday before making his home debut on Saturday – icing for nearly 15 minutes as the Isles won 4-3.
Partnering Brian Strait on the teams third pair, the 20-year old was largely protected from the Hurricanes top players (those healthy enough to play anyway); a move that further highlights the measured approach the organisation has taken to his development.
To their credit, the Islanders resisted the urge to rush Reinhart in to the line up. Despite obvious defensive frailties and high hopes for the 4th overall pick in 2012, Reinhart was sent back to junior – leading the Edmonton Oil-Kings to Memorial Cup glory last year.
With Lubomir Visnovsky and Calvin DeHaan sidelined through injury, it’s not surprising Reinhart has been given the opportunity to get his feet wet with the club this season. But where does he truly fit with the club right now?
Visnovsky and DeHaan will eventually return, Matt Donovan showed some ability last year despite having some less than favourable partners and Matt Carkner may still get some consideration should the Isles want a ‘physical presence’.
The end result is that the club has good depth on the blue line following the acquisition of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, allowing New York the freedom to move Reinhart to Bridgeport without compromising on quality.
The reality is, the young D man is still raw. His offensive instincts are a long way off NHL standard, even for a stay at home defenceman, and there is room for improvement in his own end despite a respectable start to his NHL career.
Reinhart is projected to be a top 4 D man – many hope he’ll be more than that – but on a team that boasts Boychuk, Leddy, Visnovsky, DeHaan and Travis Hamonic, he’s essentially competing for a spot with Thomas Hickey (who has established himself as a good NHL defenceman on Long Island), Donovan and current partner Strait.
With so much competition at present, it seems pointless to leave Reinhart on the bottom pair (or in the press box) when he can be getting significant playing time with Bridgeport.
Add in that defencemen tend to take longer to mature, allowing Reinhart to make the transition to senior hockey away from the the spotlight on Long Island has to be seen as an added bonus for the players, and thus the clubs, long term success.
Many prospects have been rushed in to the NHL, asked to play a bigger role than they are ready for (think Kyle Turris in Phoenix). What the Islanders have is the time and the depth to let Reinhart develop properly – so why wouldn’t you use that?