2014 Draft Profile: Sam Reinhart

Welcome one and all to the Sam Reinhart prospect preview. /thunderous applause/. This is a continuation of Panther Parkway’s 2014 Draft Profile Series. Considering this piece will be profiling the Kootenay Ice phenom Sam Reinhart I took the liberty of seeking out the sage wisdom of Cody Nickolet. Cody, formerly @WHLfromabove and now @avs_tweets on twitter, is an expert on Canadian Major Junior hockey with a specific focus on the Western Hockey League.

Cody was great enough to partake in an interview centering around top prospect Sam Reinhart, so here we go:

Mike Obrand: For our readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your familiarity with the Western Hockey League (WHL)?

Cody Nickolet:  I’ve worked in the league for the past 4 years, doing a little bit of everything including radio color commentary, managing the communications and community relations departments for the Saskatoon Blades.  Along with that I’ve worked as a scout of WHL talent for a pair of different draft publications, while also maintaining a blog and personal set of NHL Draft rankings featuring WHL players.  This year I also did a bit of bantam scouting for the Blades, which is nice as I get a more hands-on feel for all the players who will be entering the league over the next couple of years.

So now that you all know who we’re dealing with here, let’s get to the topic at hand.

Standing tall at 6’1 and weighing in at 183 lbs, Sam Reinhart has been hailed as one of the top prospects heading into the 2014 NHL draft. Through 4 seasons playing for Kootenay in the WHL he has amassed 101 goals and 153 assists for 254 points in 203 games, including an astounding 105 points in 60 games this past season. Through 29 playoff games he has tallied 26 points including his 23 points in 13 games in 2014.

Reinhart ranks 2nd overall among Bob McKenzie’s April 15th pre-draft rankings, 3rd overall among North American skaters in the NHLs CSS final rankings and 1st overall on the ISSs rankings as of June 3rd.

While opinion on his draft stock differs it is needless to say that Reinhart is a top 3 talent in this upcoming draft.

You know that the Panthers have the first overall selection. Will they use it on Reinhart? Should they? Well…

MO: First off, to be blunt: do you think that Sam Reinhart should go 1st overall in the 2014 entry draft?

CN:  Unfortunately, I don’t think he should.  And that’s not because I don’t like him as a player, I do.  I think he’s just in a bit of a tough spot this year, mostly because of the class of 2014.  It’s not a super strong crop at the top and unfortunately that leaves him in a somewhat bad light.  As for the rest of his competition at the top in 2014, the guy for me is Aaron Ekblad.  Not only is he a do-it-all defender with size, but I’m usually a guy that wants to ensure my team has a solid core of defenceman going forward.  Is Aaron Ekblad a legit 1st overall type of guy in another draft year?  I would probably say no to that too, so it’s not only a guy like Reinhart who might take some undue criticism in a few years when looking back at this class.

Cody blames the overall talent of this class for the lack of a clean cut number one pick, which I agree with. Teams will look at need over flat out ability. The Panthers have a solid crop of young forwards with skill so the time may come to go for the top flight defenseman, as Cody suggests.

Nevertheless, Sam Reinhart is a player that would help any team including the Panthers. Let’s take a closer look.

MO: Can you speak about the play style of the Kootenay Ice and how Reinhart fits in with that style?

CN: This is an interesting question, just because Reinhart has had two different coaches during his time with the Ice.  When he first entered the league he played under Kris Knoblauch.  He was a young coach who played an extremely disciplined system.  They could lock it down as good as any team in the CHL, and they won a WHL title with him at the helm in 2011.  Reinhart was a 15 year old on the team at that time and wow was he ever impressive then.  He was so smart and fit in well as a 3rd line center with a cage on, due to his age.  It’s pretty unbelievable thinking back to those early games of his WHL career.  Since then they’ve hired Ryan McGill, who really lets the offensive guys be creative and likes to play with much more tempo than the previous staff did.  They’ve had an extremely small top 6 in the last couple of seasons and like to play with speed.  That speed has forced other teams to back off when trying to defend, and Reinhart has used his vision, hockey sense and passing ability to shred teams apart.  He’s a great fit for how they play and in the end it’s likely an offensive style that was molded to make a player like him succeed by using his best talents.

This seems like a very good fit from a Panthers perspective. Dale Tallon has preached that he wants an offensive coach who knows how to utilize the talents at his disposal. There is no doubt in my mind that Sam Reinhart would flourish in such a system as he has with Kootenay.

MO: What would you say are Reinhart’s most attractive assets as an NHL prospect?

CN:  First things first, his hockey sense.  In my several years following the WHL and hockey prospects closely, I don’t think I’ve seen a player as smart as Sam Reinhart.  He processes the game at such a high level, really approaches his offensive attack like a game of chess.  He knows where to go to and where to put pucks in order to generate offensive chances.  To go along with that, his passing ability and vision are both phenomenal.  You mix in a shot that’s steadily improved over the last few years and you have a guy that can beat you in a variety of ways, and often does.

I don’t think there’s much more that you want from a prospect. A lot of the time you see that a player has the skills but lacks the sense. In Reinhart’s case you can see that first and foremost his hockey sense is his best asset. The ability for a player to see two steps ahead and act instead of react is something that makes a star NHL player.

MO: What would you say are Reinhart’sleast attractive assets as an NHL prospect?

CN: His skating has always been an area that I looked to as an area that needs to improve.  He’s a fine skater at the junior level, but he’s not an overly dynamic player.  There aren’t too many games where I’ve seen him blow by defenders or catch guys flat-footed.  I think his stride is ok, I just think it will take some time for him to get a stronger lower body and to work on his explosiveness and footwork.  If he can ever get that part of his game to an “above-NHL-average” level, he could be an extremely dangerous weapon to have.

Strength comes with time and Reinhart has just that. As he continues to grow and train with NHL players with NHL regimens you’ll see that leg strength come into play. Chances are he won’t reach the elite level in terms of his skating but I don’t think that will hamper his career as an NHLer.

MO: How high is Reinhart’s ceiling? What role do you project him to fill when he reaches his prime?

CN: I think he has the ability to be a middle of the pack 1st line center. That might sound harsh, but I think he could end up being a guy that’s not quite a top 10 center in the NHL, but is more of a guy who is ranked 10-15 in that area of the league.  I don’t see him as a true franchise cornerstone guy, even though I’m sure some scouts do.  Ideally for me he would be a guy that is one day a fantastic second line center on a championship-caliber team.  I think he’ll be a captain of an NHL team one day and a guy that can play first line powerplay minutes and also someone who can kill penalties if you need him to.

Obviously if you’re picking somebody first overall you want them to be a franchise player. The perceived weakness of the draft class may be hurting Reinhart here but I think it would be perfectly acceptable for a team to select this type of potential 1st overall should the team need these services and talents.

MO: Is Reinhart NHL ready?

CN:  This is a tough one.  I think it really depends on the team and situation he ends up in.  If you just analyze his game, he’s very close.  He’s so smart and can think his way around the ice.  But, can he get around the ice well enough as an 18 year old?  That’s debatable, but probable.  Can he match up physical against grown men as an 18 year old?  That’s also debatable, but less likely to be probable.  I think if Reinhart was going to an established team that could insulate him effectively and protect his minutes, it would be an easy yes for me.  But, if he ends up with a team like Florida or Buffalo or Edmonton, teams who lack some size, depth and experience up front, things get more tricky.  In the end, with a gun to my head, I say Reinhart plays in the NHL in 2014-15. 

Slotting a player in based on need isn’t necessarily the best way to go when it comes to developing prospects but if a player is going to help you win then it shouldn’t be a question. As a winger, Reinhart can slot into the Panthers lineup immediately and make a difference but I don’t think he is best suited there as Cody indicated above.

It might be a blessing in disguise for Reinhart as the Panthers’ do have great depth down the middle. Another year in Kootenay could help his strength and stock before cracking the NHL down the middle later on his career.

Is a center what the Panthers need most with the top pick? I don’t believe so, but a player of Reinhart’s caliber is something that no team can afford to pass on.

Luckily, or unfortunately, for the Panthers it is their choice to make.

A big thank you to Cody Nickolet for the interview.

Panthers Sign 2012 Third-Round Pick Steven Hodges

Sunday evening, the Florida Panthers announced their 5th prospect signing of the off-season, inking center Steven Hodges to an entry-level deal. Hodges, 20, was selected in the 3rd round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.

The gritty centerman has spent the last 5 seasons with both the Chilliwack Bruins and the Victoria Royals of the WHL. This year, although plagued with injuries, Hodges managed to tally an impressive 47 points in 52 regular season games. Adding to this impressive feat, Hodges lead all skaters on the Royals in playoff points with 10 points (4g-6a) in 9 games.

Hockey’s Future Talent Analysis on Steven Hodge’s:

“Hodges is an excellent skater who has shown a nose for the net and has some grit to his game. He has a high hockey IG and makes solid reads at both ends of the ice. At this stage, Hodges appears to be a candidate for second- or third-line duty, assuming he improves his two-way play. Hodges added height and weight last season and now stands at 6’0 and 175 pounds but he will have to get stronger in order to be effective at higher levels of hockey.”

In adding more depth at center, the middle of the ice for Florida and San Antonio is starting to take shape. Both Panthers’ and Rampage fans can take solace in knowing that Hodges, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Brandon Pirri, Drew Shore, Ryan Martindale, Vincent Trocheck and Rocco Grimaldi will make up a strong centering core for years to come.


We welcome your comments and feedback!

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Mack to the Future: Florida Panthers Sign QMJHL Star Mackenzie Weegar

On Thursday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced that they have signed defenseman Mackenzie Weegar to an entry-level contract. Weegar, 20, was selected in the 7th round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey.

From an OHL afterthought, to a Memorial Cup Champion, to signing his first NHL deal; Weegar’s dream of becoming an NHL defenseman is closer than ever.

After an impressive 2013-14 season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, tallying 59 points in 61 regular season games, along with 22 points in 16 playoff games, Weegar began turning heads among the CHL faithful.

Mackenzie Weegar (Natalie Shaver)

Mackenzie Weegar (Natalie Shaver)

But Weegar was turning heads in Florida long before then. Paul Gallagher, the Panthers’ Eastern Canadian scout, told Metro News after last year’s draft, “He’s got something that intrigues you as a scout. It’s also about his willingness to get better, to work at his game.” This could explain why the Panthers traded their 2014 7th round pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2013 7th round pick, which they used to select Weegar 206th overall.

Luckily for Panthers’ fans, they’ve already gotten a little taste of what Weegar could bring to the Cats blue-line after witnessing an incredible showing at the 2013 developmental rookie camp. Weegar became one of two defensemen from rookie camp (Joshua Brown was the other) to earn a shot at last year’s NHL pre-season action, earning an assist in a 3-2 victory against the Nashville Predators.

This is yet another big step in the right direction for the Panthers organization. Within the next few years, Florida could be looking at a blue-line made up of Weegar, Mike Matheson, Ian McCoshen, Joshua Brown, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, Dylan Olsen and/or possibly Aaron Ekblad, pending on this seasons draft.


We welcome your comments and feedback!

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Florida Panthers Win 2014 NHL Draft Lottery

Things may finally be looking up for the Florida Panthers as the team won the NHL’s annual draft lottery on Tuesday night.

By winning Tuesday’s lottery, Florida erases the bad memory of missing out on last year’s 1st overall selection, even after finishing with the worst record in the NHL.

This was the third time in franchise history that the ping-pong balls bounced favorably and the Panthers won the annual lottery. In both 2002 and 2003, Florida traded its top pick for the third overall selection.

With just an 18.8% chance of winning, Florida jumped over Buffalo (25% chance), much like Colorado had done to the Panthers just a year ago.

This year will mark the fourth time in the past five seasons that the Panthers have had a top-three pick. Selecting Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson in the previous three. Given their history of trading the overall top pick, the Panthers haven’t actually picked first since taking current team captain Ed Jovanovski in 1994.

Void of a consensus number one pick in this year’s draft, the Panthers may once again look to move their pick as it seems quality players will be available throughout the majority of the first round.

However, if the team does decide to hold onto their pick, players such as D Aaron Ekblad, F Sam Reinhart and F Sam Bennett are thought to be this year’s top talent.

The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will be held on June 27–28, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

[Read more...]

Drew Shore, Vincent Trocheck and Jimmy Hayes named to Team USA’s 2014 IIHF World Championship Roster

On the eve of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, USA Hockey announced today the first 15 players of the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team that will compete at the IIHF’s Men’s World Championship May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus. 

As of right now, representing the Florida Panthers at this year’s tournament will be forwards Drew Shore, Jimmy Hayes and Vincent Trocheck.

No strangers to international competition, all three players have competed for Team USA at some point in their careers.

Their international experience is as follows:

Jimmy Hayes 

U.S. National Junior Team (2009)
U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team (2007)

Vincent Trocheck

U.S. National Junior Team (2013)

Drew Shore

U.S. National Junior Team (2011)
U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team (2009)

[Read more...]

Tom Gilbert Will Miss the Remainder of the Season After Undergoing Surgery

Florida Panthers defenseman, Tom Gilbert, who signed a $900,000 contract with the Panthers this off-season, underwent Sports Hernia surgery Thursday morning, and will miss the remainder of the 2013-2014 season.

Gilbert, 31, who was bought out by the Minnesota Wild last summer, was given a second chance with the Panthers, who were looking for another veteran presence to play alongside Brian Campbell. Currently second on the team in ice-time, averaging 21:20 minutes per game, Gilbert proved to be an important addition to the Panthers blue-line.

In addition to his lofty ice-time, Gilbert is currently 5th in scoring on the Panthers, with 28 points (3g-25a-28p) in 73 games.


 Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Panthers Recall F Joey Crabb and D Mike Mottau From San Antonio

With recent injuries to F Jesse Winchester and D Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the team has recalled F Joey Crabb and D Mike Mottau from their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage.

Crabb, 30, has proven to be a quality AHL talent this season for the Rampage, recording 26 points (12-14-26) in 53 games played while serving as a mentor to some of the team’s younger players.

Making his NHL debut during the 2008-09 season with the Atlanta Thrashers, Crabb has tallied 52 total points (20-32-52) in 171 career NHL games.

Mottau, 35, has played in seven games for the Panthers this season, while also appearing in 15 games with San Antonio registering three points (1-2-3) in the AHL.

[Read more...]

Tim Thomas Traded to Dallas in Exchange for Dan Ellis

Yesterday, the Florida Panthers had the irony of a possible Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo tandem in net, but unfortunately for twitter users and hockey faithful, the Thomas and Luongo jokes will be put on pause as the Panthers announced Wednesday afternoon that they have traded Thomas to the Dallas Stars for G Dan Ellis.

Thomas, 39, has competed in 40 games with the Panthers since signing as a free agent last summer, posting a record of 16-20-3, while recording a .909 save percentage.

Though Thomas had a no-trade clause (NTC) to his contract, the signing of Luongo all but solidified Thomas’ future with the Panthers organization. When asked about waving his NTC, he told George Richards of the Miami Herald, “That’s something that hadn’t been discussed until this point. That needs some discussion before comment.”

With years of experience, a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe to his resume, Thomas has the credentials any playoff contender would be lucky to have.

Ellis, 33, has a cap hit of $900,000 and is signed until the 2014-2015 season. He has competed in 14 games with the Stars this season, sporting a .900 save percentage.

Panther Parkway wishes Tim Thomas the best of luck in Dallas!

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Brad Boyes Signs Two-Year Contract Extension with Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers made a lot of noise yesterday when they announced they had re-acquired G Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks, as well as trading veteran defenseman Mike Weaver to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 5th round pick in 2015.

Dale Tallon has shown no signs of slowing down as the Panthers announced Wednesday afternoon that they have officially re-signed right-winger Brad Boyes to a two-year contract worth $2.625 million per season.

Boyes, 31, has appeared in all 60 games for the Panthers this season, recording a team leading 17 goals, as well as 28 points. Since signing a one-year deal with the Panthers last summer, the Canadian native has spent most of his time on the 1st line, playing alongside Sean Bergenheim and Aleksander Barkov.

Prior to the re-signing, there was a lot of buzz that Boyes, a pending UFA, could possibly be moved before the 3pm deadline. Luckily for the Panthers, Tallon and Boyes had a different agenda.

“I would like to stay,” Boyes told George Richards of the Miami Herald prior to new contract. “There have been talks back and forth. We’ll see what happens.”

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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2014 Panther Parkway Trade Tracker

In case you’ve missed all the trade action on twitter, here is what you’ve missed so far since March 28th, 2014.

Trade Tracker: February 28th-March 5th

March 5th Trades:

  • Pittsburgh Penguins acquire F Lee Stempniak/Calgary Flames acquire 3rd round pick 
  • Anaheim Ducks acquire F Andre Petersson/Ottawa Senators acquire D Alex Grant
  • Washington Capitals G Jaroslav Halak and a 3rd round pick (2015)/Buffalo Sabres G Michal Neuvirth and D Rostislav Klesla
  • Minnesota Wild acquire F Matt Moulson and F Cody McCormick/Buffalo Sabres acquire F Torrey Mitchell and Draft Pick TBA
  • Montreal Canadiens acquire F Thomas Vanek/New York Islanders acquire a 2nd round pick and a prospect
  • Detroit Redwings acquire F David Legwand/Nashville Predators acquire TBA
  • Colorado Avalanche acquire G Reto Berra/Calgary Flames acquire Draft Pick
  • New York Rangers acquire D Raphael Diaz/Vancouver Canucks acquire 5th round pick
  • Boston Bruins acquire D Andrej Meszaros/Philadelphia Flyers acquire a 3rd round pick
  • Dallas Stars acquire G Tim Thomas/Florida Panthers acquire G Dan Ellis
  • Columbus Blue Jackets acquire D Nick Schultz/Edmonton Oilers acquire a 5th round pick
  • New Jersey Devils acquire F Tuomo Ruutu/Carolina Hurricanes acquire Andrei Loktionov and a conditional 3rd round pick (2017)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins acquire F Marcel Goc/Florida Panthers acquire a 3rd round pick (2015) and 5th round pick (2014)
  • Los Angeles Kings acquire F Marian Gaborik/Columbus Blue Jackets acquire TBA
  • Montreal Canadiens acquire G Devan Dubnyk/Nashville Predators acquire Future Considerations
  • Los Angeles Kings acquire D Brayden McNabb and two 2nd round picks/Buffalo Sabres acquire F Hudson Fasching and D Nicolas Deslauriers
  • Ottawa Senators acquire F Ales Hemsky/Edmonton Oilers acquire 5th round pick (2014) and 3rd round pick (2015)
  • New York Rangers acquire F Martin St. Louis/Tampa Bay Lightning acquire F Ryan Callahan, 1st round pick (2015) and 2nd round pick (2014)

March 4th Trades:

  • Phoenix Coyotes acquire F Martin Erat and F John Mitchell/Washington Capitals acquire F Chris Brown, D Rostislav Klesla, and a 4th round pick (2015)
  • Chicago Blackhawks acquire D David Rundblad and D Mathieu Brisebois/Phoenix Coyotes acquire 2nd round pick (2014) 
  • Florida Panthers acquire G Roberto Luongo and F Steven Anthony/Vancouver Canucks acquire G Jacob Markstrom and F Shawn Matthias
  • Philadelphia Flyers acquire D Andrew MacDonald/New York Islanders 3rd round pick (2014), 2nd round pick (2015), and  F Matt Mangene
  • Ottawa Senators acquire D Patrick Mullen/Vancouver Canucks acquire F Jeff Costello
  • Anaheim Ducks acquire D Stephane Robidas/Dallas Stars acquire a conditional 4th round pick (2014)
  • Edmonton Oilers acquire G Viktor Fasth /Anaheim Ducks acquire a 5th round pick (2014) and 3rd round pick (2015)
  • Minnesota Wild acquire G Ilya Bryzgalov/Edmonton Oilers  acquire a 4th round pick (2014)
  • Washington Capitals acquire F Dustin Penner/Anaheim Ducks acquire a 4th round pick (2014)
  • Montreal Canadiens acquire D Mike Weaver/Florida Panthers acquire a 5th round pick (2015)

March 2nd Trades:

  • Florida Panthers acquire F Brandon Pirri/Chicago Blackhawks acquire a 3rd round pick (2014) and 5th round pick (2016)
  • Florida Panthers acquire F Marc Mancari/St. Louis Blues acquire F Eric Selleck and D Doug Janik.

February 28th Trades:

  • St. Louis acquire G Ryan Miller and F Steve Ott/Buffalo Sabres acquire G Jaroslav Halak, F Chris Stewart, F William Carrier, and a conditional 1st round pick (2015)

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