Last September Islanders prospect Griffin Reinhart got a taste of the NHL game suiting up in pre-season action.
However, what followed was an unwelcome return to the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Western Hockey League.
Reinhart, 20, had 21 points in 45 WHL games this past season while adding 13 points in 21 playoff games captaining the Oil Kings to a Memorial Cup victory in London, Ontario.
“It’s an awesome accomplishment. It’s something that’s going to be memorable for the rest of my life,” Reinhart said of the Memorial Cup victory.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano believes the Memorial Cup experience sets Reinhart up for years to come.
“Any time you can put a player in that situation, he played a lot of minutes… he was a horse for those guys and he earned a great deal of experience most importantly winning a championship and how hard it is and how tough it is,” Capuano told reporters at Islanders rookie camp.
But in the defenseman’s mind, it wasn’t the best route to furthering his game.
“I think playing in the NHL probably could’ve helped benefit me personally, I think,” he said. “But I did everything I could’ve. I stayed in shape in the gym on the days off. I was getting better. Working on becoming a better leader, being more vocal and doing those small things.”
If the last name sounds familiar, it should. Griffin’s father, Paul played 648 NHL games with Atlanta, Calgary and Vancouver. His older brother, Max Reinhart is a forward in the Calgary Flames organization and his younger brother, Sam Reinhart, was the second overall selection of the Buffalo Sabres at the June NHL Draft.
In total, Reinhart dressed in four pre-season games for the Islanders last September, making his presence felt immediately scoring in a 5-3 loss to the Flames.
“It just proved to myself that I can play there,” said Reinhart. “Everything is going to be a step up from the Western Hockey League. I think it’s a lot more structured. Guys are in the right positions and that also makes it an easier game.
“I’m not saying it’s easy to play there, but it makes it easier in terms of guys having your back and knowing where to go and picking up some passes.”
Reinhart, the fourth overall pick at the 2012 NHL Draft, also learned about preparation at the NHL level last summer.
“I think being up with those guys, you see how they treat their bodies away from the rink,” he said. “Whether it’s after practice going into the cold tub, stretching and just doing everything they can to maintain themselves and get them in the best possible shape and prevent them from injury and keep getting stronger.
“I think that’s one of the biggest differences from the junior level.”
The Islanders have big hopes for the 6-foot-4, 202-pound native of Vancouver.
“He’s going to get an opportunity come September,” said Capuano.
Ideally a 20-year-old defenseman would play in the AHL to help make the transition to the pro game, but with Garth Snow under pressure to win now, if Reinhart can show he belongs, he likely will make the club out of training camp.
Related: In Praise of John Tavares