Reinhart isn’t far from full-time NHL duty
Feaster impressed with one of Flames’ top prospects at Abbotsford Heat camp
Provided the NHL owners and the players eventually work out their differences, watch for another newcomer to help pick up the dinner tab for the veterans on rookie night.
“It would have been the upset special for Sven not to make our hockey team out of training camp,” the Flames GM says in a break from the action at Abbotsford Heat training camp. “But you look at Max and I don’t think Max is that far behind. He’s a really smart hockey player, and he came in here in really good shape.”
“He’s going to play in Calgary. It’s just a matter of when.”
Regardless, of the NHL labour situation, players coming out of junior usually need at least a year of seasoning in the minors. The unassuming Reinhart might well be the exception.
The reason? His brain — or, at the very least, the knowledge that resides in the grey matter between his ears.
“It’s an NHL mind,” says Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward. “He understands the game very well.”
Reinhart, 20, has yet to attend university due to his pursuit of a career in professional hockey. But the Kootenay Ice graduate has definite opinions on the nature vs. nurture arguments that take place daily in psychology courses all over the world.
In his case, Reinhart believes he learned the game from his dad Paul, a veteran of 11 NHL seasons with Calgary and Vancouver. Max simply doesn’t buy the theory he biologically inherited hockey sense from his old man.
And he believes the same applies to his younger brother Griffin, a first-round (fourth overall) pick of the New York Islanders and Sam, considered a favourite to go in the top-five in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
“I’ve always known that my mind has kind of been my strong point — my ability to see the ice and think the game,” says Reinhart, a third-round (64th overall) pick of the Flames in 2009. “I think, as you can see, all the brothers kind of have that aspect of the game through our dad.
“I think it’s from him sitting us down and teaching us. When we grew up, after every ice-time, there was something new to be learned. My dad was a smart player and he had a lot to teach us.”
Like any kid, Max used to roll his eyes at times when his dad, a stock market financier and promoter, would launch into a sermon on the way home from the rink.
“I think at the time I didn’t really appreciate it, but now I definitely appreciate it,” Reinhart says. “Probably the best way for us to learn was through him.”
Provided they live up to expectations, Max, Griffin and Sam have the potential to become the Staal brothers of Western Canada.
Outside of Calgary, Max flies under the radar compared to Griffin, a six-foot-four, 210 pound defenceman, and Sam, a 17-year-old scoring sensation with Kootenay.
Not that the introverted youngster is complaining.
“I don’t get as much as attention as them, and I’m fine with that,” he says. “They’ve deserved everything they’ve got so far, and it’s not something I really care about it.
“I show up and I play. If they like what they see, that’s what I’m going to give them.”
Young players tend to be up and down. Hot one night, but cold the next.
Max Reinhart is not your ordinary young player.
“He gets around the rink well,” Ward says. “He can use both sides of his stick. He knows how to finish, but he knows how to set up players.
“You can use him as a power-play guy. You can use him as penalty killer. He does go to the dirty areas. He can score goals in those areas of the rink.”
The only knock on Reinhart is his size. Thanks to a gruelling off-season workout program, he reported to Abbotsford camp at six-foot-one, 190 pounds.
After playing five games at the end of last season for the Heat, Reinhart knew he had to bulk up in order to survive.
“I needed to get stronger,” he says. “I could think the game well enough, and I think that saved me a lot of mistakes that I could have made. There were a couple of times where I got hit where I’m not used to being hit, just because guys are bigger and stronger.
“Hopefully I don’t have to rely on my smarts to make every play this year.”
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
Calgary Flames prospect Max Reinhart honed his craft with the Kootenay Ice in the WHL last season. If not for the NHL lockout, he might have made the jump right to the big club; rather he’s attempting to make a mark with the Abbotsford Heat.
Photograph by: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald