Looking to make the leap: Sam Reinhart

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All eyes in Buffalo will be on Jack Eichel during training camp, but it would be a shocking turn of events for him to be left off the team’s opening game roster, so let’s talk about the Sabres other second overall pick because he arguably has a lot more to play for during the preseason.

Reinhart earned that high 2014 selection after scoring 36 goals and 105 points in 60 contests with WHL Kootenay in 2013-14. He managed to secure a roster spot with Buffalo out of training camp, but was given just 10:21 minutes of ice time per game and returned to the juniors after registering one assist in nine NHL contests.

Despite that setback, he went on to record 65 points in 47 WHL contests before heading to AHL Rochester where he registered three assists in three games. On the international stage, he helped guide Canada to a gold medal in the World Juniors by scoring five goals and 11 points in seven contests.

By the time this year’s development camp rolled around, Reinhart looked like a matured player, as Mike Harrington noted for the Buffalo News:

When most of you last saw Reinhart, he looked lost. He was overmatched through his nine NHL games, failing to score a goal, when the Sabres mercifully sent him back to junior hockey. He returned to Kootenay of the Western League needing to work on his skating and, most of all, on his conditioning.

Early returns are very good. Reinhart looks more chiseled. His skating appears eons better, with strong, confident strides and sharp turns. Every step had a purpose. No energy was wasted.

Eichel is the Sabres’ top prospect now and so much of their aspirations rest on his shoulders, but there isn’t a player in this league that can single-handily carry a team. Buffalo needs a core that extends beyond Eichel and Reinhart has the potential to be a vital part of it.