Dan Bylsma thinks Sam Reinhart has the goods to be a successful NHL center. He’s just not certain anymore that the middle will be the ideal place for Reinhart.
The Sabres’ coach has used Reinhart at center and right wing during his rookie year. The 20-year-old has had middling success in the middle, but he’s been a revelation on the right side with 18 goals heading into Thursday's game against Calgary.
With Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel in line to hold down the top two center spots for a long time, Bylsma is rethinking Reinhart’s long-term position.
“It does maybe change a little bit with the success that he’s had at wing and the comfort that he has in kind of seamlessly starting there and playing there this year,” Bylsma said in First Niagara Center. “I still think his intelligence of how he plays the game lends itself to being a puck distributor in the middle of the ice, but when you look at a top-six group of forwards or you’re putting lines together, with the success he’s had at wing you kind of feel like being on the wing in a top-six is something maybe he’s been better at for us.”
Reinhart will be on the wing against the Flames, skating alongside Eichel and left wing Evander Kane for the second straight game.
“I probably think in the last 18 games he’ll play a few more games at center,” Bylsma said. “With Ryan out for probably a still more extended time period, we’re going to see Sam there a little bit. I’d like to see him there a little bit in the next couple weeks, but I think he played his best at wing for us.”
Reinhart, who has played center most of his life, said again Thursday that he’s comfortable at both positions and doesn’t mind switching between them.
“I’ve been fine with it,” he said. “I feel the last couple games at center has caused my skating to even be that much better. Going back to the wing last game, I felt I had more energy in it.”