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.

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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.

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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:

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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

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  • The GREAT Walter White

    June 26 will be known as “have a McHamilton day”….!

    Also the day the Oilers traded away two really good picks for an average D.

    AND the day the Stamps kicked a 50 yard field goal with no time on the clock to win the Grey cup rematch.

    June 26 was all of that!!!!!

    What a day !!!!

    WW

    • Reg Dunlop

      Just because the flames can roll 4 defenders that are all substantially better than anything the oil can offer, just because the flames can throw a hurricane like Bennett out on the ice to skate circles around Reinhardt and Draisaitl… there is no need to gloat. We still have 5 cups. It’s just that the 5-1 argument is getting old and tired I guess. Congrats Calgary, today belongs to you; except for that McDavid thing, of course.

  • Randaman

    So you think drafting another 18 year old was a better plan?

    I disagree. Is it a home-run. Of course not right now but in two years, maybe.

    You got to take risks to succeed, correct?

    This was a good risk in my opinion

    • No, I think drafting two good 18-year-olds was a better plan.

      I think another rookie third-pairing left-shot defenceman was not a need the Oilers desperately needed to address right now. I also think that if Edmonton was going to move the No. 16 and No. 33 they needed to get a veteran who could help immediately, not another maybe.

      I think the Oilers overpaid to add a decent prospect they happen to know well.

      • I like Griffin. He has potential. Hockey Futures puts his ceiling as a top-2 d-man. But I detest the price. A first and a second in a deep draft? Far too much for a player buried in the Islander system, especially when you consider the #33 and a third got the Islanders back in the first.

        They could have come out of today with three first rounders. 🙁

  • Reg Dunlop

    Clearly he was acquired to replace Marincin when he gets dealt tomorrow for a 3rd round pick. At least he is physical and a mobile skater. Wait a second… that was Jason Smith. At least our scouts have followed his AHL progress. Wait a second… can we have a mulligan on this?

  • John Chambers

    As a result of the trade the Oilers got:

    A) bigger where they direly need to
    B) an entry-level contract, with if we use Alzner as a comparable, a very affordable second contract for a mid-pair guy (go see what Dan Girardi makes and how old he will be during the final years)
    C) a player who will be in his prime from 2018-2025, or what I figure to be the heart of the McDavid championship window

    It’s possible that a Jay Bouwmeester or Brent Seabeook were available, but they wouldn’t do us much good beyond 2020.

  • Connor Snipes

    Oh, Young Willis, you speak the truth, and it hurts.

    We got a career second pair dman at best. We gave up two really good prospects, the same as Calgary gave up to get a #2 career dman.

    OH, the Oilers are still stupid. Chia got lucky in Boston, and his luck has run out. Big Lugs.

          • dougtheslug

            Didn’t know Hamilton and Bruins were sqabbling. Sounds like they might have achieved Oilerian levels of dysfunction, now having nothing to show for the Kessel trade but Louis Erikson and hope.

        • It seems obvious that the relationship between the Bruins and Hamilton soured for whatever reason.

          Everything that’s come through Boston channels suggest the team was conflicted about Hamilton’s value; combine that with reports today that Hamilton will sign a contract with Calgary that he wouldn’t sign with the Bruins and it appears there were problems between the two sides.

          • Kevwan

            Why would Hamilton sign before July 1? He’ll surely get at least a 7.3 mil/yr 7 yr offer sheet. Unless the Flames offer more, signing makes no sense.

            Barzal was, according to the experts the BPA and by all accounts a great prospect. But he had 2 seasons in the WHL and scored 14 and 12 goals. I know GR’s potential upside is uncertain but Barzal being an NHL’er is hardly a lock.

          • nuge2drai

            I’d hold out if I were Dougie. If there is an offer sheet, is Calgary going to let him walk for lesser picks in return?

            If I’m the Oilers, I would offer sheet Dougie. At least force Calgary to pony up for one player.

  • John Chambers

    I would be thrilled if the trade were #’s 16 and 57, which just goes to show you how we as readers fall in love with draft picks at this time, when their actual realization of a productive NHL player is terribly uncertain.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    If this draft is as deep as 2003 then we may have just passed up on the next Getzlaf, Burns, Seabrook, Kesler, Perry or Eriksson for someone who may be like Coburn… Let’s hope Reinhart bounces back. Will have to wait and see.

    It’s a gamble but so are draft picks. Let’s hope Reinhart is further along than our other D prospects.

  • hagar

    I have faith in him. Defensemen don’t develop in straight lines especially transitioning from juniors to the pros. I bet he will have a better season next year with him being more familiar with the pros. Klefbom got off to a rocky start in his pro career. I really hope Rienhart can play like a 4th overall pick.

  • Serious Gord

    The more I think about it and mull it over, the more I like the trade. #16 and #33 picks are 2-3 years away, and no guarantee they pan out. True, Reinhart also isn’t a lock to be a stud D-man but he does have the potential to be a #2-#3 guy – either complimenting a #1 on the top pair or anchoring a solid second pair.

    I think a decent comparable would be a more skilled Mark Fayne – he has all the shutdown tools that Fayne has but also some puck moving ability. While Fayne has been underwhelming with Edmonton, he never gets mentioned, he’s quietly played a very solid defensive game and with the right partner he could flourish. The same can be said of Reinhart, if MacLellan pairs him with a guy like Klefbom (or Nurse in a couple years) they could turn into a really nice top pair.

    Also, Detroit has 6 LH D-men. No rule saying you need 3 LH and 3 RH. Yes it’s nice to develop D on the proper side but if you are going to switch them later then you might as well teach them early.

    No way to tell right now if they overpaid or landed a steal. Wait and see.

    • nuge2drai

      Anaheim also made it to the conference finals with 5 LH-D-men and had a pretty decent regular season as well……

      Of course everyone was hoping for a bigger “splash” from Chiarelli, expectations were riding high given this was his first draft with the Oilers and all, but I agree with the above post that we need to keep some perspective. Even though all draft picks carry the potential to be high impact players, the reality is that most are not, especially when drafting outside of the top 3-5. Even when looking at 2003, considered the best draft year ever, Robert Nilsson went at 15 (remember him…..) , Steve Bernier 16 (career 4th liner).

      So the payment may seem excessive at first glance however I think this has more to do with the disappointment over the Hamilton trade (as well as draft day “hype” when all of the prospects are overly fawned over). Given Reinhart’s age, contract situation, and draft pedigree, like it or not this is likely market value.

      As for the missed opportunity on Hamilton, I have the same question as a few other posters, why was Boston willing to let him go in the first place? I don’t buy the Cap explanation since they ate half of Lucic’ salary in the deal to LA so surely they could have found a way to make it work if they thought as highly of Hamilton as everyone on this site does. Also, why didn’t any of the 27 other teams offer more than what Calgary did? I can understand why Boston refused to deal with Chiarelli, but why didn’t any other team offer up something more than the Calgary package? If he’s as great as he’s being made out to be then why would 27 other GM’s pass on this opportunity?

      Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a good move for Calgary, and I would have liked for Edm to have landed him. However I doubt that it’s the steal that allot of folks are making it out to be (otherwise this means all the other 27 GM’s are incompetent which is not the case). Given the Oilers situation, and need for players (especially defencemen) to be NHL ready or close to it, Reinhart was a logical move and a reasonable second option. Don’t allow your emotions (disppointment and frustration over our provincial rival getting the best of us…) to affect your opinion on the Reinhart deal.

  • CMG30

    The thought was right in this trade: Move picks to obtain young D that are ready to step into the organization and grow but this is a questionable trade for a lot of long-suffering Oil fans.

    The biggest reason people are upset is that this trade looks like MacT/Howson’s fingerprints are all over this. As Oil fans know, those two don’t have any clue what a modern NHL defenseman looks like. The safest thing to do is the opposite of whatever they propose. PC, if you’re listening: CAN THOSE TWO NOW! They will cost you your job if they stay.

    The verbal from Green doesn’t offer much comfort either. Admitting that they didn’t follow his career in the AHL after he was drafted? So they really traded a 1st and 2nd rounder for a guy they really, really, really wanted 3 year ago but had no clue how he was doing since then? And in this year of all years.

    Sigh.

    Sorry McDavid. Looks like the @#[email protected] show continues in Edmonton.

    All we can hope for now is that the law of averages kicks in and MacTavish finally gets one right.

  • YakCity1039

    The same things were basically said against Thomas Hickey when he was taken 4th in 2007 but he’s turned out to be a solid player for the Islanders. The Kings gave up on him and the Islanders reaped the benefits.

    Hickey played 2 full seasons in the AHL and another 3 that were partial (which equaled one full season when put together: 7gms in 08-09, 19gms in 09-10, and 33gms in 12-13 = 59 games)

    • Hickey’s an interesting example, for a couple of reasons:

      • The team that took him 4th overall soured on him to the point that they waived him.
      • He’s now a 26-year-old third-pair defenceman for the team that claimed him on waivers.

      If you’re L.A., that’s a losing proposition. If you’re the Isles, it’s awfully good, but then you didn’t move a mid-first and early-second round pick for his rights, either.

      • bhlazo

        Can you project Griffins’ top end based on the numbers he’s put up since that seems to be your thing. I’ll admit, when he played for the Oil King’s I didn’t pay as much attention to junior hockey as I do now since I’m still new to the sport in a lot of ways.

        • That list of players with similar career curves above is a pretty good expression of what I consider as a range of outcomes for Reinhart.

          If all goes well, he’s a Braydon Coburn/Karl Alzner type, a really good second-pair guy/fringe first-pair guy. If all goes middling, he’s probably a decent third-pairing guy who plays a bunch of NHL seasons. If things go really bad, busting completely is not out of the question.

          My guess is that he ends up being a useful No. 4/5 for the Oilers.

  • hagar

    I guess PC should stick to going after ahl stars like jultz? Where has the art of a gm finding something they like in a player, and taking a risk on them gone?

    • Reg Dunlop

      There is nothing wrong with a GM taking risks. The problem I have isn’t even with the 2 draft picks because we all know there is zero certainty in prospects. The issue I have is the perceived value of those picks. The hype around this draft is unprecedented. I am confident that some NHL GM tonight is dumbfounded that the oil dealt those picks for so little.

      Reinhardt may play 1000 NHL games, who knows. What I believe is that the oil have more pressing needs than a 3rd pairing defender who’s a year or 2 away. A better return, a more immediate source of help such as a proven NHLer, probably could have been nabbed.

      • hagar

        I agree with most things you say Reg, but the perceived value of those pics is still what they are “perceived”.

        Perceived is the key word here, and I am banking that PC sees something he likes as the new gm, and thinks Griffin is someone that is ready to make an impact in the absolutely needed NOW Mcdavid time frame.

        Could the 16 and 33 maybe be a hindsight 22 in the future? Sure!! But who even knows if the oilers would have picked the correct potential players with those pics.

        I take a left turn to grab a slurpee last minute on my way home, and I die in a horrible car crash… I go home and mix some powdered iced tea instead, and I live.

        PC made a call he feels will help the team now, and I am fine seeing how it turns out. I sure as hell am not going to write an article 4 hours later questioning our new gms first major move, with little regard or insight on why he did it.

  • Chris.

    It would be nice if someone in the organization had actually watched Griffon play in the AHL before recommending the trade… This reminds me of the time Tambellini’s staff traded for Teubert thinking Colten would eventually be viable option on the power play like he was in junior. (Tambellin was caught completely off guard when the local media asked him about Teubert’s limited ice time, healthy scratches, and complete lack of power play time at the pro level)

    Tracking post draft player development is just basic due diligence; a concept that sadly continues to be foreign the Oilers.

  • hagar

    You all act like this was a terrible trade. The way I see it is he is young enough to fit in with this group and mature under legit management. Macllean can show him the reigns, much like nurse and Klefbom. I do agree we need vetran presence, but vetran dmen are always avilable. Pick up a Franson or Sekarek in UFA and you get some vetran help. Also we need to win now! Drafting a dman that is still gonna be 3 years away is not gonna help. Reinheart is ready to step on to the team and contend for a top 4 pairing spot. This trade will be looked on differently in a couple years when he pans out to be a top 2-4 dman.

  • toprightcorner

    I can’tay I am disappointed that the Oilers didn’t draft more small skilled forwards in Barzal and Connor. Chairelli said he was looking to build a team strong on the puck and play heavy, neither of those two fit that bilol.

    In the end, Chairelli wanted to get a dman with that 16th pick and probably forced it when he couldn’t find any other buyers and gave in on the 33rd pick as well. probably an anxious move but a bold one that at least gets us a player that will play in the NHL next year instead of a small forward of which there is a plethora on the team that are likely 3 years from the NHL.

    I truely have to wait a couple years until those potential forward picks make the NHL and see how Reinhart is doing then. My figers are crossed.

  • I got to watch G.Reinhart play and he was AWESOME! I’m really happy with the trade I really think he’ll turn out to be a great player. Besides what was the last time the Oilers drafted someone useful after the first round, or even pick.

  • bhlazo

    I would have been okay with using the 57th instead of the 33rd. But being conflicted about this also means I don’t see a clear winner in the trade. I’m sure most fans don’t know how to feel about this trade. I’ll reserve final judgement till after the preseason. He has major upside and also d-men tend to develop slower than forwards. I just hope Chia gives Marincin a season before deciding to move him coz a top 4 of Klefbom, Griffin, Nurse and Marincin doesn’t seem too bad. Schultz could also take a step and having Fayne as the veteran in the last year of his contract when the Oil are ready to contend doesn’t seem like a bad back end. Davidson showed well as did Musil, despite the foot speed issues. Osterlee, Hunt, Lalegia and William, the Swede in the NCAA, add to the depth on D. The Oilers depth on D in terms of prospects is quite promising.

    The depth in terms of forward prospects needs some work and here is to hoping the next 7 picks address some of those.

    Still, yay 97 and yay big cat.

  • Andresito

    Very disappointed in this trade. Watched griffin enough to know hes a 5-6 dman at best. Wasnt impressed at all with him in World Juniors. 16 and 33??! Ouch dougie hamilton didnt cost much more. Def lost some confidence in new management. Deja vu all over again.

  • 786

    On a brighter note Victor Hedman was drafted in 2009 and he’s finally playing impactful hockey in 2014/15 at age 24. But at same time any sign that indicates MacTavish and Howson still have real influence in hockey decisions worries me.

  • nuge2drai

    Bob Green: “I didn’t see him play in the American League.”

    Okay, this disturbs me. You just gave up a 16th and a 33rd for a player who you didn’t even see play in the AHL? You’re doing this almost solely based on the fact that he played well for your JUNIOR team over a year ago? WTF…?!?!

  • Andresito

    Dumb. Dumb dumb.

    Still listening to the old boys ways. Should jettison all the ex management.

    Reinhardt is a pylon career minor leaguer. Or another cramps oilers D.

    Best D in league… Flames.