June 25 2013 02:15PM
Three years ago, the Flames entered the NHL Draft with a problem. They had zero picks in the first two rounds of the draft – having traded their first away for Olli Jokinen and their second for Rene Bourque. With no picks in the “important” rounds of the draft, the scouting staff dug into their bag of tricks when the club went to the podium at 64th overall.
They grabbed former Flame Paul Reinhart's eldest son, Max, with that pick. Three years hence, that pick is making the scouts look pretty smart.
Reinhart has three sons. It's been said by some scouts that the youngest (Sam) got Paul's offensive talent, the middle son (Griffin) got his size and physicality and his eldest (Max) got his father's ability to read a game and his work ethic. Looking at the last three seasons of Max Reinhart's play, it's hard not to agree with that basic assessment. It's not entirely complete, but it says quite a bit.
Reinhart was a good, but not quite great, junior player. He was invited to World Junior camp during his last junior season but didn't make the team. He was one of the key players for the Kootenay Ice during his tenure, playing in just about every situation for a club that won a WHL Championship and competed in the Memorial Cup tournament. Even as post-draft player, Reinhart was never an elite offensive machine – his production topped out at 78 points in 61 games during his last junior year – but he was relied upon heavily by the Ice for his leadership and ability to hit, shoot, pass and block shots.
During the lockout season this year, Reinhart made the jump to the pros. He was initially a bottom-six guy for Abbotsford and got eaten alive to start the season. He gradually adjusted and became a better bottom-six player before the lockout ended and he began getting top-six minutes. Prior to the start of the NHL season, Reinhart had just 3 points and a minus-12 rating in 37 games. After the NHL season began, he improved 18 points (and a minus-14 rating) in 30 games.
Reinhart was the only major call-up after the trade deadline who didn't make an appearance at the shortened training camp – Carter Bancks was up for a pair of games at the end of the year and also didn't appear at camp. Playing in 11 NHL games at the end of the campaign, Reinhart was used in a lot of different situations and generally looked pretty good, garnering three points.
If he plays as well at training camp as he did during his end-of-year audition, he'll be a strong candidate for a bottom-six spot in Calgary. If not, he'll likely get top-six minutes in Abbotsford. The key to Reinhart's success will be continuing to add some muscle to his frame, as he's a smart two-way player who reads the game extremely well, but he's a bit too small to successfully battle in traffic the way he did in junior.
Three years ago, Max Reinhart was Calgary's first pick in the 2010 draft. Today, he looks like a pretty smart choice. He began the 2012-13 season as a bit of a question mark. He progressed from being an iffy AHL third-liner to being a pretty good second line player, to being an NHLer for 11 games and not looking out of place.
The next step for Max Reinhart is to prove that he can progress from being an 11-game NHLer to being an everyday player in the show who can help his team win games. Given his lackluster offensive totals in his first full AHL season, Reinhart is in danger of becoming a perpetual tweener unless he can take few, firm steps forward. If he can do that, Reinhart has the smarts to become a potentially useful 3d line, PK type pivot down the road.