It’s too early to write off Griffin Reinhart

Reinhart, Griffin2

The Edmonton Oilers made a controversial move on Friday, trading the No. 16 and No. 33 picks in the 2015 Draft to the New York Islanders in exchange for yet another former Oil King, defenceman Griffin Reinhart.

There are a lot of reasons to dislike the trade, and we’ll get to those, but it’s important to acknowledge that the 21-year-old Reinhart isn’t exactly dead on arrival and could yet have a solid NHL career.

Comparables

Reinhart, Griffin

A year ago, I wrote a pessimistic piece on Reinhart’s potential. The reason for the piece was the asinine notion that the Oilers should move their No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft (they picked Leon Draisaitl) to New York for the rights to Reinhart. At the time, I pointed out that Reinhart’s career curve was a lot less impressive than most top-10 defenceman and that while our information was incomplete his declining offensive production was extremely worrisome:

[H]ockey can’t be neatly divided into offence and defence. Shutdown players don’t leave the ice when their team gets possession of the puck. So a lack of offence at the junior level either means a lack of ability (i.e. they can’t shoot and can’t pass) or it means they’re spending their entire time in the defensive zone. That’s why players who turn into shutdown types in the NHL generally score in junior; they may primarily be playing a defensive game, but a successful defensive game generally also equates to points. So it’s a little troubling that Reinhart is getting lapped offensively by a guy like Teubert at the same age.

Reinhart has played a season of professional hockey since that post was written, albeit a season spent in the AHL. With the idea of getting an idea of his potential as a player, I decided to look at all the defencemen taken in the first 15 picks out of major junior since 2000 to spend the majority of their Draft+3 season in the minors. Here’s the list, with the number indicating points/82 games played (black text indicates junior, red AHL):

Player Draft Draft Draft+1 Draft+2 Draft+3
Brandon Gormley 13th, 2010 61 84 75 35
Karl Alzner 5th, 2007 61 49 34 31
Griffin Reinhart 4th, 2012 51 40 38 31
Slater Koekkoek 10th, 2012 57 57 70 30
Braydon Coburn 8th, 2003 29 45 60 29
Luc Bourdon 10th, 2005 37 77 46 28
Keaton Ellerby 10th, 2007 30 31 25 27
Steve Eminger 12th, 2002 74 103 8 26
Thomas Hickey 4th, 2007 60 59 73 26
Colten Teubert 13th, 2008 29 51 55 24
Calvin de Haan 12th, 2009 76 58 72 23
Alex Plante 15th, 2007 54 5 54 15
Boris Valabik 10th, 2004 18 8 16 15
Dylan McIlrath 10th, 2010 30 30 36 9
Duncan Siemens 11th, 2011 49 40 37 7

Not every player on this list turned out badly.

Braydon Coburn has enjoyed a solid NHL career, and in a lot of ways is comparable to Reinhart. Karl Alzner is a good second-pair defenceman with Washington. Others have played NHL games: Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in ice-time for the Isles last year, Steve Eminger played almost 500 games, other guys are still prospects.

It’s also nice to see Reinhart’s offensive production in the AHL; it’s higher than we would have expected based on his last two years of junior and puts him in the range of Alzner and Coburn, the best two players on this list.

With that said, there’s a lot of disappointment here. Colten Teubert and Alex Plante both show up; those players need no introduction to Oilers fans. Many of the worst first-round picks in recent memory pop up on this list; generally big, plodding defencemen who were supposed to be shutdown guys and turned out to be far less than that.

People with Knowledge

Green, Bob

Bob Green, former G.M. of the Edmonton Oil Kings and current Edmonton Oilers Director of Player Personnel, offered the following rationale for the move:

I didn’t see him play in the American League. I know what he brings, what he brought in junior. He’s played one year of pro, he’s got some developing to do, but Griffin’s a winner. He’s got elite hockey sense, he’s 6’4”, he’s a defencemen; we need defencemen. He won a Memorial Cup, he was the captain. He would have taken us there I believe when he was 18 but he got injured in the Conference Final that year and we took Portland to six games and maybe we could have won that series had we had him in the lineup. Did he struggle this year in the American League? I guess he did, but I believe in Griffin as a player and I think he’s going to be just fine… He’s a horse. He can play all night. He’s 6’4”, he can move the puck, he’s got elite hockey sense, he’s got great hands. He’s the complete package that you want in a defenceman who is 20 years old.

Michael Fornabaio, who covers the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, had the following take:

Got to admit I wasn’t as down on Reinhart as some others. He wasn’t ready, sure, but big, young defensemen rarely are. His skating will need some work. But he’ll forever be that “No. 4 pick” guy, and that was going to be hard to live up to. On the other hand, that’s not a bad return for a defenseman who didn’t look can’t-miss. And in general, the Islanders dealt from strength, a deeper pool of defense prospects to add to a thinner group of forward prospects.

From February, here’s what the Islanders blog Lighthouse Hockey had to say about the player:

Griffin Reinhart – perhaps the biggest question, he played solid, but made the occasionally headscratching pass. That has long been my impression, that Griffin will be a solid player, but is there more upside? I see Dave Langevin being the max sort of player we might get out of him. I’m not convinced that he will stick given all of our D assets – if Leddy & Boychuk stayed, Hamonic & de Haan also seem long-term and Thomas Hickey is a gem, that’s one spot if all are healthy – Reinhart can clearly enter this mix, but he also may not be essential. He remains a trade candidate to Edmonton, especially if a young forward prospect is made available.

Assessing the Trade

This isn’t a deal I would have made, and I say that without any disrespect toward Reinhart. Mathew Barzal being on the board at No. 16 looked like an awfully nice opportunity for Edmonton; most pre-draft estimates had him inside the top-10 and the Islanders obviously saw value in snapping him up at that point in the draft. Surrendering Barzal is one thing, but to top up the trade with the No. 33 pick seems like an exorbitant price to pay for a guy who isn’t a can’t-miss prospect.

Reinhart’s a nice piece to have in the system. The price was just too rich for my blood.

Some other thoughts:

  • Reinhart is a left shot defenceman, meaning that the Oilers now have him, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Martin Marincin all as logical left side players breaking into the league. That’s a lot of players at a similar stage in their development, and it probably represents the writing on the wall for Marincin. I’m not convinced Marincin is that far shy of Reinhart as a prospect, and it’s a certainty that he isn’t going to get anything close to the kind of return that Reinhart did.
  • With that said, Fornabaio notes that Reinhart did play 20 games on the right side in Bridgeport last season, and that may be where his future lies in Edmonton.
  • Earlier today, I described Peter Chiarelli’s familiarity with the Boston Bruins as a two-edged sword. On the positive side, it would give him an inside track on players and help the Oilers identify value; on the negative side being familiar with one team could lead to a fixation on Bruins’ players when better options exist out there. The same rationale applies to the Oil Kings. Owning a junior team should give the Oilers an inside track on WHL prospects, but sometimes it feels like the club is overemphasizing Edmonton products. Laurent Brossoit looks like a prospect, but on the other hand we have the iffy Reinhart trade and high picks spent on Mitch Moroz and Travis Ewanyk. The Oil Kings don’t have a monopoly on junior talent and so they shouldn’t have a monopoly on the Oilers’ draft picks either.
  • Teams don’t generally move prospects so quickly after they draft them. Interestingly, that’s something which current Oilers employee Tyler Dellow commented upon during his previous life as a blogger; as it turns out when the team that drafted a player is willing to give up on him early the results typically aren’t good.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Anton CP

    I was neutral on the Reinhart trade but now have soured. Bob green admitted he hasn’t seen him since the oil kings. WTF? bad bad move. Look what other 1st and 2nds get you! Jeeeebus!

  • Anton CP

    Whether CR proves to be a better player than the speculative 16th and 33rd picks remain to be seen. There are no guarantees about any of these players.

    However, I am disappointed that PC didn’t get immediate roster help. The holes on D and goal are still there. With limited available cap space trades of quality roster players may be needed to address the needs.

  • Serious Gord

    Some things I glean from this post:

    1. Green NEVER SAW Reinhart play in the AHL. He retains his opinion of GR based entirely on year-old data – what he saw in junior. Regardless of what GR turns out to be Green is incompetent – one year is a huge factor in player development – to blithely brush off negative reports and numbers is inexcusable.

    2. The isles and EDM were in talks over GR back at least as far as feb. Long before PC arrived on the scene. They had the Jones for him and couldn’t shake it. And it seems that group (mact howson, klowe) still had enough influence to force chiarellis hand. That is a very worrisome issue if true.

    I don’t know if GR will be a good to great player. I don’t have much data to work with to have an opinion. But the way he was decided upon and lusted for by management then and now is very discouraging. I thought oilers management had turned the page and become more professional. Let’s hope this is the final move that is made this way.

  • crackerjack14

    So, # 16 and # 33 in the deepest draft since 2003 gets us a LHD that has as much chance of being a draft bust as turning out ok? I have to admit I’m a little disapointed. I was so blinded by the winning of the McDavid lotery and the removing of KLowe as POHO, that I never realized that Chiarelli is not the second coming of Sam Pollok. In fact he’s the one who traded Tyler Seguin for magic beans and left Boston in cap hell. Hope he’s the kind of guy who learns froms his mistakes, something we haven’t seen in a long time in Oil country.

  • Serious Gord

    It had been a great day for the Oilers and welcome Griffin to the fold. It is very difficult to trade for young big strapping defensemen with the pedigree GR has even if there is some risk it was worth the gamble. The focus obviously is on the defence and goaltending where it should be. This decision was not all on Bob Green besides GR is 6’4 and 217 and I remember a player who was the anchor for a really good Oil King club. Nurse, Klef and Schultz are puck movers Reinhart will be the stay at home shutdown guy we could use.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    I wonder if Hamilton wasn’t traded yesterday, would the reaction of the Reinhart be different today for Oilers fans…

    Reinhart is going to become a solid top 4 shutdown Defenseman.

    This was a good trade.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    When Chia signs a top 4 Dman this OS, our Defense will be much improved…

    Erhoff Fayne

    Klefbom Reinhart

    Marincin Nurse

    Ference Nikitin

    Need to dump the bottom two dman, Im pretty sure Nurse is going to earn a roster spot out of camp, he’s that good.