August 27 2012 11:32AM
When the puck drops for the 2012-13 season, all eyes may be on Sven Baertschi as he makes his full-time professional debut. But another very promising young player will also be turning pro – Max Reinhart.
The eldest of three sons of former Flames and Canucks blueliner Paul Reinhart (the others being Islanders pick Griffin and 2014 draft-eligible Sam), Max Reinhart spent his junior career with the Kootenay Ice. While not as offensively gifted as someone like Baertschi, Reinhart still put up strong regular season numbers – posting 235 points in 266 WHL games. He was even better in the 2011 playoffs, racking up 27 points in 19 games en route to a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup appearance.
Reinhart had a cup of coffee with the Abbotsford Heat at the end of year, scoring two goals in the last regular season game and adding two points in four playoff games.
EXPECTATIONS AND COMPARABLES
It's hard to classify Reinhart as a player. At worst, he's shown the ability to be a strong two-way player at the junior level. He also showed some flashes of offensive ability, particularly in the past two years. His best asset, though, is probably his ability to read a game. While not quite as talented as Baertschi, he's arguably a smarter hockey player.
In terms of expectations, let's take a look at a handful of fellow third or fourth round players in their first pro year.
Ryan Bourque had 14 points in 68 games with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL
Kris Foucault had 32 points in 70 games with the Houston Aeros of the AHL and 0 points in a single game with the Minnesota Wild
Adam Henrique had 50 points in 73 games with the Albany Devils of the AHL and 0 points in a single game with New Jersey
Lance Bouma had 20 points in 61 games with Abbotsford of the AHL and 1 point in 16 games with the Flames
Cody Eakin had 27 points in 43 games with the Hershey Bears of the AHL and 8 points in 30 games with the Washington Capitals
Brandon MacMillan had 6 points in 16 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL and 21 points in 61 games with the Anaheim Ducks.
There's a lot of variation here. Internally, there appears to be little doubt that Max Reinhart will be an NHL player someday. Lance Bouma benefited from a weak bottom-six in Calgary, some injury troubles and figuring out how to play an effective game at the NHL level. That's why he spent so much time in the NHL in his first pro year (and why he spent even more time there last season).
Whether Reinhart hits the NHL this season probably depends on how quickly he can adapt to the pros (his short stint in Abbotsford showed a lot of promise) and how many NHL bodies go down due to injury.
Reinhart can play up the middle or on the wing, and has shown an ability to chip in defensively and offensively. He's also not bad at face-offs. But the problem is that the Flames have a lot of bodies already signed to one-way NHL contracts, along with guys like Roman Cervenka, Lance Bouma, Sven Baertschi and Greg Nemisz.
He'll be given every opportunity to succeed in Abbotsford, but he'll probably stay there unless he radically out-plays some of the other AHL forwards and/or the Flames face an injury out-break similar to last season's.
The Flames seem very high on Max Reinhart. Ask anybody in management or hockey operations and they'll rattle off things they like about him. But he's just 20 years old and has all of five pro games under his belt. While the club probably wants to utilize him sooner rather than later, don't expect them to throw him into the deep end quite yet.
In this case, Calgary's forward glut probably will be a boon for Reinhart. He'll have the chance to get some games under his belt and be a leader on the Heat. Don't be too surprised if he gets a call-up, though, particularly if there's an injury in the Flames' bottom-six.