Sam Reinhart walked about the First Niagara Center atrium with the confidence of a veteran. It was only his baby face that gave away the fact that he is just an 18-year old filled with potential and not probability.
But as Reinhart engaged with the media on a whirlwind meet-and-greet day in Buffalo, it was difficult not to be excited about the potential the forward brings to a Sabres organization at the ground level of a massive rebuild.
While “rebuilding” may be the word most used to describe the Sabres, “mature” is the word most used to describe Reinhart.
Selected by the Sabres with the second overall pick at the NHL draft on Friday in Philadelphia, Reinhart seemed unfazed by the expectations pinned to the back of his blue and gold jersey.
Being a top draft pick comes with built-in expectations, but Reinhart has been dealing with expectations his entire life. His father, Paul, was an 11-year NHL veteran and his two brothers were NHL draft picks (Max, in 2010 third round to Calgary, and Griffin, the fourth overall pick by the Islanders in 2012). While you get drafted by the NHL only once yourself, in many ways this doesn’t feel like Sam Reinhart’s first rodeo.
“I’m fortunate enough for me that I’ve had two brothers go through this experience, so I’ve been able to watch them try and make a National Hockey League team,” Reinhart said. “To be able to see them go through it the last couple of years and surround myself with them, I think it’s made me familiar with the process and I’m comfortable with it.”
His production in the Western Hockey League showcased his skills. In 60 games last season he scored 36 goals with 69 assists for 105 points.
But it’s not just the numbers he is able to put up. It’s that elusive hockey sense coupled with maturity that has impressed Murray and the Sabres.
“He’s very mature, I think, and again, it’s how you’re brought up,” Murray said. “It’s the way you treat your elders. It’s the way you treat your peers. We’ve seen it on the ice … the way he plays the game, the way he respects the game. He plays between the whistles. He doesn’t get rattled. His focus is on when they drop the puck. … He’s very mature in that respect.
“All kids and teenagers mature at different times and different speeds. Again, that’s a big part of who he is on the ice. I hope he’s great on the ice, and I hope he’s better than that off the ice, and I know we’ll have a longtime franchise guy.”
Could he be the next face of the franchise?
“That’s not my focus right now,” Reinhart said. “I’m going to come in as a young guy and do everything I can to make the team for starters as any young guy has to do. I’m going to take everything I can, learn from the older guys, get some experience and start to make an impact. That’s just my focus right now.”
Right now, Reinhart’s focus is getting back to the gym. While he said he got in a solid workout on Sunday, it was about five days since he had any quality training.
And training is what it’s all about. Reinhart said his focus is on working out with his brothers at a training facility in North Vancouver. The goal, as it is with many young players, is adding muscle and strength to their frames.
“As every young guy coming into the league, it turns into a man’s league very quickly so I’m going to continue to get bigger and stronger to be able to compete every day,” Reinhart said. “That’s been a focus of mine and it has been for some time. … It’s only more motivating now. I’m going back and getting back into it. I’m excited for that part of it. There’s always something to work on.”