July 30 2014 08:30AM
A year ago, Max Reinhart was in tough in the Calgary Flames organization after a not-great first year of professional hockey. Now with a really great AHL season under his belt and some NHL experience, now is the time for Max Reinhart to make the jump to becoming a full-time NHLer.
Because after this season, there might not be many more chances for him within the Flames organization.
Max Reinhart was drafted by the Flames in the 2010 NHL Draft and turned pro in 2012 after a pretty solid junior career, putting up 235 points in 266 games and having steady progression throughout his time with the WHL's Kootenay Ice. His NHLE grew progressed: from 10.7 (at 16), 17.4 (at 17), 27.4 (at 18) ...to 31.4 (at 19).
The eldest son of ex-Flame Paul Reinhart had a not-great professional debut season in 2012-13. Suiting up for 67 AHL games with the Abbotsford Heat, he put up a decent-if-unspectacular 21 points and a woeful minus-26 rating playing a two-way role and primarily being thrown to the wolves in terms of quality of competition and zone starts. He got into 11 NHL games near the end of the season when the Flames traded away Jarome Iginla and began the rebuild in earnest.
After his first pro season, many were scratching their heads when trying to reconcile Reinhart's bad first year.
Thankfully, he seemed to turn a corner in 2013-14 in his second pro season. Deployed in mostly the same manner by Abbotsford coach Troy Ward, Reinhart's numbers were much, much better. He put up 63 points in 66 games and tripled his goal total from 7 to 21. He lead the Heat in scoring and was 12th in the entire AHL in points. He got 8 games in with the Flames and was perfectly fine, but he was a superb AHLer.
2014-15 will be the final year of Reinhart's entry-level deal. He really needs to make this year count for a handful of reasons.
- Max Reinhart, along with John Ramage, Bill Arnold and Michael Ferland, is part of the final draft class overseen by Darryl Sutter. While it's still unclear what Arnold and Ferland are at the pro level, it's possible that Flames GM Brad Treliving may see Reinhart as a previous regime's asset (heck, two regimes ago) and look to cash out so he can invest time and money in his own people. Ferland may get a bit of a reprieve because he's so physically gifted.
- Reinhart has 19 NHL contests under his belt. Outside of Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan, Reinhart's played the most NHL games of recent picks. We're hitting the point where the team decides whether he's an NHLer or not. And since he lacks the cache of a shiny first round pick like Baertschi, they may give Reinhart less of a leash. Heck. look at Roman Horak and Greg Nemisz; neither proved to be an NHL talent in this organization by the last year of their entry-level deals, so they were shipped away for assets.
- Reinhart is likely gunning for a bottom-six spot. Players joining the pro ranks in recent times who are now competing with him for the same jobs include: Corban Knight, Michael Ferland, David Wolf, Bill Arnold, Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino. Of these guys, Hanowski and Knight have one year of pro under their belts after playing shorter NCAA seasons, and Wolf, Arnold, Agostino and Ferland still need to prove they can withstand the rigors of the long schedule and the accompanying travel. Reinhart has two full seasons under his belt, and has the advantage of being in pro shape. He won't have that advantage once his entry-level deal runs out, and he'll be a fourth-year player fighting for jobs against a bunch of kids, at least some of which will have impressive seasons this year in Adirondack.
There are two or three NHL jobs available in September. Max Reinhart needs to prove to Flames management that he's worthy of one of them, because the opportunity probably won't be there for him next season.