As Buffalo Sabres’ Development Camp concluded, General Manager Jason Botterill was asked about the status of a contract extension for Jack Eichel, which has been a significant theme of the off-season. Botterill responded that both sides would like to get it done this summer, if possible. In response to whether the same would go for fellow forward, Sam Reinhart, the young GM said that “there are no plans for an extension at this time” and that they would likely come at the end of next season. From this statement comes an easy conclusion: the second overall selection of 2014 needs to be fired up and have a breakout season in 2018.
Despite a slight increase in point production, this should be of no surprise as Sabres’ Beat Report, Paul Hamilton, frequently noted that Reinhart was not seen after practice with current assistant captain, Ryan O’Reilly. Considering it was regular in the 2015-16 regular season, this may appear that the player is complacent and not pushing himself. Reinhart’s shot was not spectacular upon being drafted, making it a priority in his development. There was considerable improvement, evident from burying 23 in his rookie season. His goal-scoring, however, dropped to 17 this past season and brought some merit to the reports that Reinhart was not exhuming the initiative to put in extra work.
Of course, social media was rife with people claiming that the Sabres should have selected Leon Draisaitl and that he is no more than a third-line center. Sam Reinhart did not step it up in the 2016/2017 season but I have not seen third-line centers connect on passes that the 21 year-old has the ability to make. You can argue about Draisaitl, as he had 77 points, but anyone expecting him to be a dynamic producer was not reading the scouting reports. Most scouts drew comparisons to David Krejci, a dependable, two-way player who, when healthy, is good for 60 points. Reinhart had a reputation, like Krecji, of performing in the postseason and in big games, including the gold medal win at the World Junior Championships in 2015. His best qualities, hockey IQ and passing, cannot be ignored as they are at an elite level.
Did his shot need improvement? Yes! Would a 10-point increase have been nice? Yes! Did his points-per 60 at even-strength decline? Yes! Should fans be worried? No! Why you ask? We are talking about a 21 year-old on a team not known for their skating ability. He is not a fast skater but that has improved and hopefully he can benefit from a quicker pace that Phil Housley will implement. Where there is a lack of foot speed, there is a player who can move the puck quickly and see plays well before they happen. Does he need to push harder? Absolutely! The new regime is expecting him to earn his stay with Jack Eichel, where he benefits the most. And Casey Mittelstadt was looking awfully good at development camp, which does not impact Reinhart this year but could down the road if the initiative is not there.
The fate of Sam Reinhart’s next contract is in his own hands. He is going to have to prove that he is serious about improving and winning. His roommate was openly agitated about how the Sabres finished the year. Though more quiet than Jack Eichel, does Reinhart share the frustration of losing to the point he will be putting in the extra effort this off-season to make a noticeable difference? If he does, he is poised to have a breakout campaign to gain confidence from a new regime that does not care about past successes or failures. It is all up to him!