By John Vogl
PHILADELPHIA – The Sabres need a dramatic influx of forward talent in their organization. They took a big step tonight by selecting Sam Reinhart with the second overall pick in the NHL Draft.
Reinhart, the third-ranked prospect according to NHL Central Scouting, is a levelheaded center who has uncanny hockey sense. He’s a playmaker who can score, something that is lacking in Buffalo.
“My hockey sense is up there,” Reinhart said. “At this age, I think that’s the most important thing to have. Everything else in my game I’ve been working on, and I’m going to continue to work on that. I think that’s going to improve my game that much more.”
Reinhart totaled 28, 35 and 36 goals during his last three seasons with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League, and he’s racked up 254 points in 203 junior games. He set career highs with 69 assists and 105 points in 60 games this year. He followed that with six goals and 23 points in 13 playoff games.
Reinhart fully believes he’s ready to step right into the NHL. A recent taste of the professional life gave him additional confidence.
Hockey Canada invited the 18-year-old to participate in its world championship camp last month in Switzerland. He skated alongside NHL players such as Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson, Toronto’s Nazem Kadri and Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, and Reinhart felt he belonged.
“I would say going up to Switzerland for a few days and playing and practicing with professional guys has set me apart in my confidence level going in,” said Reinhart, who dressed in an exhibition game against the Swiss. “I feel prepared now, and it only motivated me to get more prepared. It was pretty amazing to see how I handled Practice One compared to Practice Three and really picked up the pace and felt comfortable pretty quick.”