After failing to stick in the NHL last year, Sam Reinhart knew he had a lot of work to do. He’s done it.
The Sabres center has spent the summer improving his skating and physical condition. He’ll get to show off his work this weekend as Buffalo hosts Boston and New Jersey in a three-team prospects tournament.
“I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt in my life,” Reinhart said Tuesday after an informal skate in HarborCenter. “The biggest thing that I’ve improved on is my skating. I feel a lot more confident with it out there.”
A lack of explosiveness helped send the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 Draft back to junior hockey last season. He spent most of the summer doing power-skating work, the first time in his life he’s focused extensively on his footwork.
“There hasn’t been a summer where I’ve worked this hard,” Reinhart said. “The biggest thing I took out of it is staying low wherever you are on the ice. I think I had tendencies to pick my body up a little bit too much, so I think I’ve corrected that a little more.
“It’s a lot quicker game, it’s a lot stronger game, so everything about being in that lower position enables me to use all my strength and quickness out there.”
Reinhart feels even better than he did in July, when he was the star of Sabres development camp. The team has the 19-year-old penciled into its starting lineup, so month-to-month improvement is vital.
Reinhart says he’s more comfortable off the ice, too. He was a focal point of last year’s training camp, but he’ll yield the spotlight to Jack Eichel this year.
“I don’t think the pressure ever goes away,” Reinhart said. “If in the first place that bothers you, I think there’s a problem. I know for a fact it doesn’t bother him. He’s comfortable in it and I’m sure he’ll excel with that added pressure. With that being said, I’m comfortable with it, too.”
Reinhart, Eichel and the other prospects will gather at 9 a.m. Friday in First Niagara Center for an open practice. They’ll play New Jersey at 7 p.m. Saturday and Boston at 7 p.m. Monday. Tickets for the games are $10 and are available at the arena box office or Sabres.com.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Reinhart, who relished playing in front of 17,000 fans during development camp. “You look back to the middle of July, and anytime you get to play in that rink it’s fun. I know all the guys that are here so far are looking forward to it.”