Photo credit:courtesy EHC Kloten
Austrian draft prospect David Reinbacher could be the blueliner of Calgary’s dreams
By Ryan Pike8 months ago
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The Calgary Flames have a few interesting defensive prospects within their system, but it’s probably not unfair to say that the likes of Jeremie Poirier, Yan Kuznetsov and Ilya Solovyov are still works in progress. With such a lean defensive group, you might expect the Flames to take a long look at some blueliners when it comes to the 2023 NHL Draft.
In the first round, they could take a long look at Austrian defenceman David Reinbacher.
A product of Hohenems, Austria – a town in western Austria right along the border with Switzerland – Reinbacher is a right shot defenceman who’s listed at 6’2″ and 187 pounds. He’s from a hockey family, as his father played pro and his older brother plays pro. He’s an October 2004 birthday, which makes him one of the oldest first-time draft eligible players in the 2023 class.
Reinbacher played his minor hockey with Lustenau in Austria, but moved into the Swiss system as he got older. He’s frequently played well above his age level, playing most of his 16-year-old season in the Swiss Under-20 league with Kloten, splitting his 17-year-old season between Kloten’s under-20 and pro teams, and spending his entire 18-year-old season in 2022-23 with Kloten in the Swiss National League.
David Reinbacher has flown up the charts since the beginning of the season accumulating 22 points in 46 games with EHC Kloten. He is an intriguing right-handed defenseman in a draft that lacks defensive star power and provides a very projectable toolbox as a middle-pairing defenseman with powerplay ability. Reinbacher doesn’t have elite skating or passing ability but he is super efficient in both aspects. He processes the game well and uses his edgework in tight spaces to shift into better positions or can find lanes quickly with his good playmaking ability. His shot and shot selection stand out as a key component in his offensive potential and could be his ticket to quarterbacking a power play at the pro level.He is defensively responsible with great awareness and solid off-puck reads. Reinbacher can move bodies in front but he still needs to learn how to leverage his big frame during board play and one-on-one battles for puck possession. He looks like a defenceman who has a high defensive IQ and will improve with specific skill training at the higher level. What he lacks is dynamism. He is a solid top-4 projectable D man but is missing those elite qualities to be considered in the top-10. With that being said, he has the potential to be a staple for any team in the top-4 and has the aptitude to improve tremendously in all parts of his game (much like he did this season).
David Reinbacher has had almost an unprecedented season at this high professional level by an draft eligible defenseman. He is big, strong, a good skater, and can play under pressure. He is a complete two-way defenseman with many above-average tools. He is a good skater, particularly for his size, as he moves noticeably easily on the ice and also has quick feet and four-way skating ability — which allows him to play aggressively on the offensive blue line, pinching, and keeping the possession with his long stick. Reinbacher scans in all-directions before retrieving the puck, understands the way of the pressure immediately, and makes the right play more often than not. Whether it is taking a hit, shielding the puck with his body allowing his teammate to come and collect the puck, or make a quick pass or to hold the puck and give his teammates time to adjust. He is very calm under pressure. He sees the ice well and makes very good passes. Reinbacher has a strong shot. He finds or create seams to be able to get the puck to the net. Defensively, Reinbacher has a strong gap control. On the rush, he makes it very difficult for the attacker to beat him wide or to access the triangle between his legs and stick. In the defensive zone he is tough to play against, as he defends actively with his stick and body to hold the play to the outside. I would, however, like to see him strip attackers of the puck more often. Reinbacher is strong on the puck but his puck skills are not elite in my opinion, and he mishandles the puck or executes a bad pass on occasions. He flashed great plays in the offensive zone but they do not come often at this level. Reinbacher is a big, two-way defender who competes hard at both ends of the ice. He has enough skills and smartness to play big minutes in the NHL. If a team believes he will develop into a No. 1 defenseman he may be gone as soon as in the top-10. Right now I personally see Reinbacher in top-20 of the 2023 draft.
In part due to his physical maturity, Reinbacher has shown the ability to hang at higher levels of hockey than a lot of blueliners of his age. The National League is a really good league, and he was able to be a regular on a good team as a teenager. The big knock on Reinbacher is that he’s good at everything and his game has no holes, but he doesn’t really seem to have any elite attributes that could be his calling card at the NHL level.
He’s good, and he seems destined to remain good as he works his way up to higher levels of hockey, but he might not become great.
In 2022-23, Reinbacher played the entire season with EHC Kloten of the National League. (He joined the pro team midway through the previous season and helped get them promoted from the second-tier Swiss League in the 2022 playoffs.) He had three goals and 22 points in 46 games. He was 23rd in the league in points by a defenceman, and led all under-20 players in points, goals, assists and games played. Youngsters tend not to play a lot in the National League, but Reinbacher did.
Internationally, he suited up for Austria in three different events: the Deutchland Cup, the World Juniors and the World Championships. He was named a top three player for Austria at the World Juniors and he was one of four first-time draft eligible players at the World Championships. (He only played four games due to a mid-tournament injury, but when he played in the Worlds he was reportedly pretty solid.)
Availability and fit
A right shot defenceman with a steady, puck-moving game that’s already playing pro? Reinbacher is almost built for what the Flames have seemed to value from a scouting, drafting and development standpoint over the past decade. They’ve never drafted an Austrian and they’ve never taken a player from the Swiss pro leagues, but aside from that, Reinbacher ticks all the boxes.
The challenge is that it seems improbable that he’ll be around at 16th overall. He’s ranked 8th by Daily Faceoff, 16th by McKeen’s, 15th by Hockey News, 8th by Sportsnet, 12th by Elite Prospects, 10th by Bob McKenzie, 6th by Corey Pronman and 15th by Scott Wheeler. If he’s around, the Flames probably grab him. But based on the scouting consensus, it seems likely that he’ll be gone much earlier than 16th overall. (There seems to be a well-defined top nine prospects, while Reinbacher is arguably the “best of the rest.”)
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