Griffin Reinhart needs to win a job with the Edmonton Oilers soon

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Griffin Reinhart is at something of a crossroads in his NHL career. Recent history suggests that he’ll either establish himself as an NHL player this season, or he won’t do it at all.

Top 15 Defencemen

Reinhart, Griffin

The following graphic shows the development of every 6’2”-or-taller defenceman drafted out of Canadian major junior with a top-15 pick at the NHL Draft between 2001 and 2011. The number in each case indicates the 82-game scoring rate of the player, and the colour of the box indicates league (white, blue and orange representing major junior, the AHL and the NHL, respectively). The league each player played the most games in is pictured.

12.1.15 Reinhart comps

If the chart seems familiar, it’s likely because I’ve posted less elaborate versions of it before. Back in 2014, when the idea of swapping Edmonton’s third overall pick (Leon Draisaitl) to New York for Reinhart’s rights was bouncing around the media echo chamber, I argued that such a deal would be a terrible idea. I brought it out again in the summer Reinhart was acquired, noting that several good NHL defencemen had faced similar developments curves.

This is the first time I’ve included every player, though, to provide an idea of what the expected development curve should be for a defenceman picked in this range.

Reinhart’s Family

The players boxed off in the middle represent the group that has had a similar development curve to Reinhart. The players in the top-third can be safely ignored because they were all firmly established NHL players by this point in their respective careers. The players in the bottom-third can also be ignored, as they didn’t come close to matching Reinhart’s offence as an AHL rookie.

That leaves seven others. Here’s where they were at the end of their respective Draft+4 seasons:

  • Karl Alzner: Played 20+ minutes per game in nine of his 10 final NHL games. High: 30:13; Low: 18:19.
  • Braydon Coburn: Played 20+ minutes per game in seven of his final 10 NHL games. High: 25:26; Low: 18:18.
  • Jared Cowen: A unique case because he was hurt for a good chunk of the year. He played 20+ minutes in three of his final 10 NHL games. High: 26:04; Low: 14:41.
  • Keaton Ellerby: Played 20+ minutes per game in two of his final 10 NHL games. High: 22:05; Low: 15:32.
  • Griffin Reinhart: Played 20+ minutes per game in zero of his last 10 NHL games. High: 19:27; Low: 12:45.
  • Jamie Oleksiak: Played 20+ minutes per game in zero of his final 10 NHL games. High: 16:53; Low: 12:21.
  • Colten Teubert: Played 20+ minutes per game in zero of his final 10 NHL games. High: 14:31; Low: 8:23..
  • Brandon Gormley: Played just five NHL games. High: 19:04; Low: 11:49.

Reinhart has time here. An AHL assignment is a temporary thing, and he’ll almost certainly be back on the other side of the trade deadline if not earlier. He has a few months to continue to develop before he’ll be at the same place that the list above was for their final 10 games in the NHL of their Draft+4 seasons.

But the message here seems pretty clear. If he’s to keep up with the Coburn/Alzner duo, the last two guys on this list to make the cut as top-four NHL defencemen (though the window is perhaps not entirely closed for Cowen and Oleksiak) he needs to be playing 20+ minutes per game regularly by the end of the season.

If he isn’t a top-four defender by that point, he starts looking a lot more like Ellerby than a player with a bright NHL future.

Update: There’s been lots of push-back to the sentiments expressed in this piece, and I’ve asked readers who think I’m wrong on this to find an example of a player who was drafted early and wasn’t a top-four defenceman by his Draft+4 season but who went on to have a top-four NHL career.

Ed in PV (comment no. 39) suggests Thomas Hickey. Hickey (picked 4th overall in 2007) took a long time to arrive in the NHL and still hasn’t been a top-four defenceman in the majors, but he was a solid No. 6 for a very good Islanders team last year. 

Saytalk (comment no. 109) has some strong counter-arguments here. He went back prior to 2001 and dug up some older players – Nick Boynton, Ron Hainsey and Bryan Allen – who were picked early, took a long time developing and still managed to play some seasons as top-four defencemen. We don’t have any more recent examples, but these players certainly demonstrate that it’s possible to both be an early pick and be a late-bloomer. 

Further suggestions are welcome. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

    • bradleypi

      This all day.^^ Classic oilersnation. Just because he wasn’t drafted by the oilers and his name isn’t klefbom, Davidson or nurse, he must be a bust. I thought at the start of the season he should have been in the minors anyway. Along with nurse and Davidson. Instead of exposing them to this gong show of a team. Would ference and nikitin look so bad right now instead of having their contracts just waste away giving oilersnation more ammo to whine about? I couldn’t imagine a worse start to the season and it all started with someone getting the C stripped off them. I’ve never seen a team come together after that happens. But oilersnation thought it was a great plan…..

      • Soiled Trousers

        You sir are a stooge. A clown fool stooge. I don’t know what the hell you are ranting about in ninety percent of your comments. The oxygen you are sucking up would be better used lighting farts.

        • bradleypi

          Real solid contribution man. I like how you think you’re so much better than people by insulting them over the Internet. Good stuff! Keep it classy bro!

          • Soiled Trousers

            Oh don’t worry, I know I’m dumb and there are very few people I would consider myself “better than”. I’m just saying I don’t know what the hell you are talking about. Other than your huge Jultz boner I don’t know who you even like on the Oilers. Whenever there is a comment critical of a players performance you spaz out and go on rants about other players. Take today’s article. Its about Reinhart but you are ranting about Nurse then seem to suggest the Oilers should be player Ferrence and Nikki. What the hell does that have to do with Reinhart. Do you dislike Nurse? Do you think Ferrence should be playing? I just don’t know man.

          • bradleypi

            At least I have an opinion about the oilers unlike 2 guys that are just here to insult and judge people on an Internet forum sitting high on your thrones. I especially love that lie about how I went on a “rant” about nurse. I think he’s gonna be a great hockey player. Maybe you hero’s could refresh my memory on what I said about him? Unless you’re making things up for cheers????? I think a couple guys might be craving some validation in their lives

          • bradleypi

            Ya. If you actually read any of my comments and especially the earlier one today,I do think that nurse, Reinhart and Davidson should be in the minors and ference and nikitin should be playing and earning their contracts. What would the difference be? The oilers lose every night with young guys or they lose every night with old guys. Reinhart wasn’t ready to play on the islanders last year in the playoffs. Why would he be ready here?