Surprise draft move nets Reinhart
Former Oil Kings captain ‘a winner’
The Edmonton Oilers hope familiarity breeds content.
On Friday, the Oilers traded their 16th and 33rd overall picks in the NHL entry draft in a surprise move to get defenceman Griffin Reinhart from the New York Islanders.
“It’s a little bit disappointing (being traded three years after he was drafted), but they treated me well,” Reinhart said of the Islanders.
“I just wasn’t in their plans.”
Reinhart, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, made a name for himself in Edmonton as the Oil Kings’ captain and star defenceman.
Before the 2012 draft, Oilers scouts couldn’t decide among three Western Hockey League defencemen, including Reinhart, Moose Jaw Warriors’ swift puck-mover Morgan Rielly and silky smooth Ryan Murray from Everett Silvertips. When they couldn’t break the deadlock, they opted for Nail Yakupov, the best forward on the board.
“Griffin’s a winner, with elite hockey sense. … He’s a defenceman and we need those,” said Bob Green, the former Oil Kings general manager who is now the Oilers’ head of player development.
“He was the captain on our Memorial Cup winning team and we might have gotten there the year before (in 2013) if he hadn’t been hurt against Portland.
“Did he struggle in the American (Hockey) League this year? Yeah, I guess he did, but I believe in him,” Green added. “He’s a horse. To me, he’s the complete package as a defenceman, but he’s only 20 (actually 21).”
Reinhart’s lot in life with the Islanders took a hit last fall.
“They traded for (Johnny) Boychuk and (Nick) Leddy and signed them,” said Reinhart, who never felt the Oilers would draft him in 2012, “not with them having the first overall pick.”
He spent much of the past season on New York’s AHL farm team, playing only eight regular season games and one playoff game in the NHL when Lubomir Visnovsky suffered a concussion this spring.
He admitted to being “nervous” in the playoff game and was replaced by another farmhand, Scott Mayfield, for Games 6 and 7.
Reinhart was a question mark to make the Islanders in the coming season, too.
There was talk that he had asked for a trade because he was unhappy, but Reinhart categorically denied he had gone that route.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said he had been talking to the Islanders since he got hired two months ago. He was a fan of Reinhart’s exceptional Memorial Cup performance when he was Boston Bruins general manager.
The prevailing feeling is the Islanders thought Reinhart had to improve his foot speed and be more proactive with his decisions. But Green, who was responsible for drafting Reinhart in the WHL bantam draft and pushed for the 21-year-old, said “he’s a young man in a big body. That doesn’t come overnight.”
The s i x-foot-four, 217-pound defenceman knows he has work to do.
“I have to play to my size more, work on my edges (skating), be more consistent,” he said.
Chiarelli said the Oilers didn’t make the trade with the Islanders because another defenceman they were interested in was gone by No. 16.
The Islanders, without a first- or second-rounder, came calling and took Seattle Thunderbirds centre Mathew Barzal, who was the second-best WHL draft prospect after Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Ivan Provorov, who went eighth to Philadelphia.
“We don’t make this deal if Barzal’s not there,” said New York GM Garth Snow.
Reinhart, the most valuable player in the Oil Kings’ 2014 Memorial Cup win, will have every opportunity to make the Oilers, whose defence is in flux.
Edmonton has captain Andrew Ference, Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin, plus Darnell Nurse, who was outstanding in an AHL playoff call-up to Oklahoma City this spring.
Reinhart could certainly start as a third-pairing guy, barring a trade for an established defenceman or a free- agent signing.
The Oilers went into the draft needing to shore up their defence and goaltending.
They had the 16th pick as part of the David Perron trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins in January.
At the time, with the Penguins rolling and an apparent Stanley Cup contender, it appeared the pick might be in the 25th to 30th range, but Pittsburgh barely made the playoffs and went out in Round 1 to the New York Rangers.