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


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

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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. 


  • BubbaZanetti

    I think part of the issue here is how the title of this article is constructed, and how the claim is being made.

    When you create a title that implies certain knowledge….”Griffin Reinhart NEEDS to win a job with the Edmonton Oilers SOON” (emphasis mine of course) it appears as if you are going to provide evidence that explicitly shows how Griffin Reinhart is on the brink of losing his potential as a functional top-4 defenceman in the NHL.

    By doing a height/draft position/scoring rate chart comparison you offer several similar players that either succeeded or failed to become “top-4” defenders. “Top 4 defender” on its own, is a term based on observation that is actually quite fluid. Defenders from game to game will play more or less depending on recent play, if they recently returned from injury, or simply because they are not Shea Weber or some other truly elite player on defence. Trying to marry statistics to an observed state is quite tricky, and it also an issue with the quality of competition and quality of teammates statistics.

    Even though you tried to bring in as many examples as you could to give your analysis value, by focusing on draft position and height so much, I believe, you lose accuracy. I would think that the style of player, skating speed, role on previous and current teams, injury history, and state of current team are much higher lines of evidence than “6’2 or higher” for instance. J-Bo is tall, but his fluid skating and passing skill set makes him as different from Reinhart as Ryan Ellis is. I think people looking at your criteria rightly point out that making predictions based on your factors alone is not specific enough to be useful, and requires much more information to justify the title you used, and the implications of your article. Would gathering and organizing all of this information for all these players over the last several years be difficult? Yes, and that is why predictions in hockey are difficult.

    Your replies of “Prove me wrong using a stat” demean the, admittedly, sometimes rude criticisms of your work. I believe many here do not believe that the statistics lie necessarily. It is simply that they are not accurate enough to give justification for targeting certain players with articles like this one. The title you made was chosen for its impact, and you got it. But I think it would have been easier to accept an article with a less damning take on a player’s future when the data to back it up is as debatable as what you have chosen here. You pay the bills with language and clicks, but I think you should pay a bit more attention to the language you use when interpreting your statistics. The numbers may not lie, but a person pontificating their meaning can.

    • Benny Botts

      ^^^^^^^^This x100!!^^^^^^^

      One line that rings very very true…
      “Your replies of “Prove me wrong using a stat” demean the, admittedly, sometimes rude criticisms of your work.”

  • pkam

    I have said this before and will say it again.

    Reinhart will not amount to much over a career AHL defenceman. Remember, he got sent down to the AHL on by a team with arguably one of the worst defenses in the league. That speaks volumes to how poor of a potential player Reinhart really is.

    Too slow, terrible under pressure with the puck, can’t skate, no quickness, and often caught out of position and trying to get back in the play.

    Davidson is doing very well because he has all the above and is improving.

    Reinhart caught flat footed.

    So, the learning thing here is. Don’t listen to anyone in the organization that came in the Lowe/Mac T era without doing your homework. They wasted two very good draft picks on a pilon.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Reinhart needs more time playing than he is getting here . He’ll be okay in time . That time may not come till next year , however .

  • The Goalie 1976

    Hi Willis,

    With all due respect, I don’t think Griffin is eligible under your current criteria, as he is under difficult circumstances with the current Oilers D.

    I would argue he is easily one of the coaches 6 best damn based on play. He played nikitin and Ference out of a job, our captain would be in the AHL if not for his contact. Plus Griffin is a better player imo this season than Gryba and Fayne. There is not much more Griffin could have done, it’s not his fault the team has 4 bloted veteran contracts that can’t be moved. Also what is the coach supposed to do when 3 of his top 4 are rookies, and that’s not including Jultz (plays like a rookie) and Griffin himself. Tmac can’t ice a full rookie defense corps, he has to hope a few of the veterans turn it around.

    I don’t consider griffins demotion based on his play (hard to argue he’s not a better choice than Ference Gryba even Fayne) he’s just stuck in a numbers game and bad contracts.

    IMO there are extra circumstances affecting Griffin on this issue that makes him an unfair example in your particular analysis.

    Thanks for the article, I wonder what the make/break analysis is for Yakupov, he seems more in danger of being a statical black hole (hopefully not.)

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Holy jumping! I must say normally I enjoy the articles on this site, but with the (it now seems routine) articles that say prospect A needs to be in the NHL this year or he is a bust (I believe you mentioned Nurse earlier this year and now Reinhart) it is really turning me to not read this site.

    Can we not just jump all over these kids and let them develop even if it takes more than 3 years to develop without saying he is the crossroads of his career??? You do realize the reason he was sent down is because he doesn’t need to clear waivers, and they have already 8 dman up here?

    Let’s just keep writing these kids off, makes total sense. I am so glad the (some not all) articles are getting as bad as some of the fans.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I think he could be a top-4 defender, but the real question is on what kind of team? Will he a top-4 defender on a Stanley Cup contender, which is where this team wants to be? Is he a top-4 defender on a perennial lottery team? Is he top-4 in the AHL/KHL/SHL, etc.?

  • Drafted first overall by Sarnia in the 2014 OHL draft. He was named Alternate Captain in his rookie season and was named First All-Rookie Team and Third All-Star team. Scored 16 goals and 17 assists for a 33 point season in 42 games played. A two-way franchise defenceman projected as the consensus second overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft. Possesses explosive acceleration and is able to create separation from fore checkers with either his acceleration or mobility…once at top speed carrying the puck he is a freight train…was able to make up ground on a two on none, rendering it a two on one and eliminated a scoring chance…skates puck in transition up the ice and carries the puck in deep into offensive zone frequently…makes quick and hard passes that are difficult to intercept…uses a variety of passes, bank off boards, saucer pass, slap pass…uses head fakes and look a ways very efficiently to disguise his intentions…does not get pulled out of position by chasing the puck in the defensive zone…plays a near flawless defensive game in his own end, giving up no turn overs, being the first on loose pucks and consistently clearing pucks and relieving pressure…uses long stick effectively to poke check and block passing/shooting lanes…skates backwards very well for a big man, and has strong edges making him difficult to beat wide…shoots the puck hard and fast…franchise first pairing defenceman.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Is Erik Gubranson an exception JW – using the criteria in your update?

    Drafted 3 OV in 2010.

    Draft plus 4 is 2013-14.

    Played 65 games that year. 9 points.

    Arguably not in top 4 with Campbell / Gilbert / Kulikov / Weaver / Robak ahead of him in avg TOI and out scored by Dylan Olson. Edit – also Jovo when healthy that year would likely have slated in ahead of Gubranson.

    Currently a Top 4.

    Does that not check off all the boxes?

      • The Soup Fascist

        I understand that but were there not some of the same concerns about EG in year 4 and meets all the criteria in your update.

        If Jovonovski and Whitney were not injured, is it not conceivable Gubrandson v4.0 would have been in the same spot as Reinhart is now – in the pressbox or in the minors – at best the #6. I think it is difficult to say Ference, Gryba and to be honest Fayne are better defensemen than Reinhart right now.

        If it wasn’t for contract / waiver issues those 3 sleds would not be in the lineup or on the roster.

  • DoubleDIon

    1) remember that he was drafted by the NYI, we didn’t. Therefore his draft spot is moot. We traded for the player he is, not the player he was during his draft year. This whole article is drummed up for the sake of Willis just trying to validate his opinion. Did it occur to you that chiarelli was trading for a 2nd pairing D-man and not a 1st pairing d-man?
    2) this is what makes blogs amazing. Guys like Willis and Brownlee have an opinion yet don’t have a press badge because management would think they’re just silly if they talked about stuff like this in media scrims.

  • bradleypi

    Anyone want to put any money on Reinhart?

    I agree with Willis. He needs to develop fast or he will no longer get looked at by the NHL as it is always drafting new players every year and the old ones get forgotten (when was our last article on Musil, Simpson etc.)

    If you don’t play by draft +4, you are very likely (statistically speaking) to not have a career of any significance in the NHL, because the younger drafts get first shot (7 or more per year).

    Reinhart, unfortunately is not much ahead of Alex Plante in terms of development. He is only getting a chance here because of the Oil Kings connection.

    I would rather have the draft choices NYI made. Under the cap, the NHL is all about managing resources. Some do it well. Some, well…….

    Bad move by the “New” Oilers management.

    • DoubleDIon

      Not only do they get forgotten, their waiver wire exemption expires. Once that happens most teams cut bait.

      I would also bet that he’s getting the opportunities he is getting because they used some pricey picks to get him…

  • What exactly is the point of this article? 2%-5% of the article has anything to do with the player, and 0.5%(if that) has anything to do with the current sad state of the Oilers.

    Willis should centre for Hall and Eberle, a dream team on so many levels.

  • BubbaZanetti

    Wouldn’t a better title for an article be;

    ” Edmonton Oilers need to win a game for their fans soon !”


    ” Peter Chiarelli needs to trade a player on the Edmonton Oilers soon !”


    ” A player and / or players needs to hit somebody
    on the opposing team soon!”

    Just a thought ?

  • McDavid Hasselhoff

    Further to the thread about high drafts choices, whose time is ticking, I took a look at how Yak stacks up with a select group on No. 1 picks. I looked at No. 1 forwards whose 1st 4 years were less than stellar. Alexandre Daigle (AD), Yak, Doug Wickenheiser (DW), Patric Stefan (PS), Joe Murphy (JM), Brian Lawton (BL). I have prorated Yak current seasons to 60 games, 10 goals, 30 assists to estimate where he may be by at the end of the year.

    1st 4 years
    games goals assists points
    AD 263 67 89 156
    Yak 252 52 76 128

    DW 202 49 66 115

    PS 268 35 78 113

    JM 116 35 54 89

    BL 163 33 44 77

    Yak is very comparable to this group. Let’s hope he does a Joe Murphy and not a Patric Stefan.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    More than one person has mentioned that Reinhart is the least of the Oilers’ concerns, but does that mean he doesn’t warrant this kind of analysis? There needs to be a critical eye on each player to see how they’re coming along.

    Reinhart might be one of the best 4 D-men on the Oilers, but being top 4 on this team doesn’t necessarily mean a strong future. A #4 here is, what, a #6 on another team?

    Granted, I think Reinhart’s done a decent job (though he suffers from being overvalued), and it’s nice having some muscle on the blue line. But if we keep losing, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to send him down and get him 20+ minutes a game in the AHL. There might be more potential to squeeze from him down there.

    • BubbaZanetti

      I was one who mentioned that “Reinhart is the least of the Oilers concerns”.

      My intention with the comment is that with the way the team is currently playing, it seemed a little odd to click onto ON and see the top article titled about whether Reinhart needs to make the team now ?

      I agree that Rienhart needs to spend time in AHL, and I also believe he will help this blue line as he matures.

      I also agree that it doesn’t hurt to have his play analyzed but I can think of about 8-10 other players who need their play analyzed ahead of Rienhart ?

      Just saying as a fan, I’m really not that worried about Griffin Rienhart at the moment.

    • Hemmercules

      The Oilers are in last place as usual. What kind of articles are you expecting?

      I will never understand people that hit up a comments section just to hate on the writer or the article in question. Its much easier to move on and forget about it unless its actually offensive to you in some way.

      I for one like to see evaluations on the individuals that make up the team. I think Chiarelli maybe felt a little pressure to make a move on defense and took the best he could get. There aren’t any magic instant fixes for the Oilers unfortunately. Knee jerk trades will only hurt the team right now in my opinion. Good to see Reinhart sent down for a bit, continue rounding out his game and hopefully end up a decent #4 man for the Oil eventually. Hate to fully give up on the guy after such a short period of time but the clock is ticking as the article states. Hopefully he’s just a bit of a late bloomer, feels crazy to consider a 21 year old guy a bust already.

      • The Goalie 1976

        Did you read the comments section today ? They know exactly what they’re doing when writing articles like this. Nowhere did I say it offended me. I just don’t get the point of stirring the pot in an already testy environment. It’s far to easy to write the negative article. Find a background story once in awhile it would be a welcome change. The poor guy has only been here 1/4 season and we are already getting crap like this. Enough already. Give the kid a fair shake don’t turn him into the next Tom Poti.

  • S cottV

    I would agree that Reinhart needs to be back in the NHL asap.

    With a bunch of the right things done over the next couple of years, the Oilers ought to be able to start winning consistently when McD, Drai and Nurse are veterans.

    So – 2 to 3 years out.

    Forget about the older core (Eberle, Hall, Nuge, Yak, Schultz) getting it done. Most need to go in order to get one more first pairing prospect, get bigger, get harder to play against.

    Reinhart needs 3 years of NHL game experience to peak when McD, Drai and Nurse are ready to really deliver.

    Oilers don’t have the potential top 4 depth to screw around with patient development. They may not even be able to trade their way into it. So – lets force it with Nurse and Reinhart.

    Quit screwing around with guys that will not be a part of the plan 2 and 3 years out, when someone who is part of the plan is sidelined to the AHL – when he can arguably make the jump.

    Enrol Reinhart into the same skating program that Drai went through. Reinhard needs the extra quickness.

  • What was Reinhart’s injury that had him on injured reserve? When did he sustain the injury? How long is recovery for that injury?

    Injuries happen, but I wonder if we have seen his best. If we have then he is a borderline player currently. If we haven’t, it’s helpful to know he had a nagging or lingering injury that had an impact.

  • Serious Gord

    Talking head after talking head on this site have rambled on about D men needing 200-300 games to really develop. Writing Reinhart off at this point is the same stupid suggestion that has plagued the Oilers for years. They drafted and developed Petry only to lose interest in him just as his game begins to mature. Now Montreal has him and we got a 2nd round pic.

    Drafting Musil and Simpson is a demonstration of talent myopia worsened by nepotism. No way either of those rwo make the show IMO. Drafting Oil Kings was also an extremely suspect line of thought that has proven disastrous. See Gernat, Ewanyk and Moroz. The jury is still out on the acquisition of Brossoit. Marincin is an inconsistent and marginal pro with Montreal.

    With a draft record like this and I wasn’t even breaking the surface, is the reason the Oil fail year after year. The only thing that surprises me is that Oil fans are surprised.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I’m a Reinhart fan from his Oil King days. I’m cheering for him.

    I too was taken aback when I heard, after this trade that no one scouted him the previous year. That’s a heck of a price to pay for someone that hasn’t been looked at through their first year of professional hockey. His stats weren’t good.

    NYI picked him much higher than he was rated. Plus this was the Yakupov year, which we all know was a weak year.

    He should have started the year in the minors. That he didn’t is the Ferrence/Nikitin factor. Davidson wasn’t rated as high as him and they didn’t have much else for choices. The Oilers can’t be faulted for starting Nurse in the minors.

    I think he will be a good NHL defenceman. I think he’ll be contributing later this season after getting some good minutes down south. (of course I also predicted the Oiler’s wouldn’t be a 30th place team this year, so what do I know).

  • Hemmercules

    Although obviously not a guy who played major junior, I believe Niklas Hjalmarsson is a high water mark (albeit extremely high) as he was drafted in 2005 and did not play regular NHL minutes until the 2009-10 season.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Willy, the real question everyone needs answered:

    How many top 15 picks with size 12 feet and a height greater than 6’2″, who also have reddish hair and a smattering of freckles, come from a town with a population of

  • Serious Gord

    I’m probably just too dumb for analytics. as soon as I see a chart in a hockey story my brain starts bleeding and I have to skip it.

    I just don’t see the relevance of draft position. I know you say it indicates the player had an organizational fast track to the NHL but the draft is a gamble. The Islanders knew if they took Reinhart 4th overall and he picked up a step he’d be a top 2 D for 15 years. He didn’t gain any quickness so he’s tracking like a second round pick who needs to learn his craft to be effective.

    Same as the Oilers taking Draisaitl #3. He gets quicker they have a Kopitar type centre. His speed doesn’t improve? He’s a second round pick. Draisaitl got quicker. Reinhart did not.

    So the fast track you indicate that these players had to my view doesn’t exist. Reinhartt comes to camp…he;s a step slow for the NHL..he goes back to junior or the AHL. No first round fast track for prospects who’s weakness is speed. If you’re like Justin Shultz and you can really move but you’re on ice IQ is ECHL level you’ll get a million chances to find your way on the job in the NHL.