Apples don't fall far from father's tree
Brothers look to have bright future, thanks to a sporting bloodline
By Ben Kuzma, The Province
June 19, 2012
Vancouver Giants' Brendan Gallagher (left) is dragged down by Edmonton Oil Kings' Griffin Reinhart in WHL action earlier this year.
Photograph by: Ian Lindsay - PNG Files , The Province
That ruckus the Reinhart clan creates usually emanates from the yard adjacent to their West Vancouver home. It's where aspiring NHL prospects Max, Griffin and Sam Reinhart mix it up with the boys next door and those spirited tennis matches and soccer games serve a dual purpose. They not only hone agility, improve hand-eye co-ordination and increase the capacity for long cardio workouts, but add an imperative fun element - because the game they all strive to play professionally one day can be far from it.
Paul Reinhart knows that after logging 730 games in the bigs.
Like any proud father, the former Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Atlanta Flames defence-man uses an array of adjectives to describe how well his sons have evolved into smart and competent hockey players. And if comfort on and off the ice is the measure of an intangible in what it takes to get to the NHL - aside from select skills, and a good head for the game - then the young Reinharts may have a leg up on their peers. On the tennis court, Sam can blister first and second serves because he took lessons and played on the school team. But Max and Griffin push him and even Paul gets into the act.
"Well, Sam is the second-best, behind me," chuckled the eldest Reinhart. "He's played the most, but all three are playing a lot more and they're getting good. They tired the hell out of me and the first part is that athleticism has always been more important than specific training, and that's true of all great players I remember playing with and against. The second part is the whole concept of fun. You do have to have fun at all levels you're playing at, but what changes is your definition of fun.
"It's not necessarily making pretty plays or scoring a goal. If it isn't fun to take a two-hander across the ankle, if that's not your definition of fun, then don't play. If your definition of fun isn't a Monday in November after losing, and it's not fun to work hard and compete in practice - and I'm not suggesting it is - but if you don't have fun you have no future in the game."
All three Reinhart products appear to have a bright future. Max, 20, is a centre in the Flames organization and had 28 goals this WHL season with the Kootenay Ice. Sam, 16, had a 28-goal rookie season with the Ice and is projected as a first-round draft pick in 2014. In the middle is Griffin, a towering 18-year-old defenceman with the Edmonton Oil Kings, who has rocketed up the rankings for the 2012 draft that starts Friday in Pittsburgh.
The versatile 6-foot-4, 207-pound blueliner is ranked 10th among North American skaters and projected to go much higher, depending on pre-draft swapping of picks and players. And because the development apple doesn't fall from the tree - those classic games on TV are proof of how much father and son are alike - then Griffin might be destined for greatness. There are the usual concerns for a big kid in the game, about the level of skating and competitiveness, but a 12-goal season and impressive Memorial Cup debut seem to have cemented his status as one to watch.
And if he has questions, the best sounding board is just a call away.
"I talk to him after every game and I'll continue to do so," Griffin said of debriefs with dad. "He's taught me all the little things that you need - stick position and positional play - and things you might not think of. It's kind of funny how we play a pretty similar style and even make the same mistakes - just little ones in the corner, and nothing major - but just things I try to work on and he tried to work on as well.
"The first time I skated I was two or three and, since then, my dad has never pressured us to keep playing or anything - he just left it up to us."
Griffin has worked on skills a bud-ding blueliner needs to improve, like getting a heavy shot through traffic, being more mobile, and being consistent in all aspects; scouts are quick to point out that he can tailor his game to whichever one is being played. They talk of Griffin's high IQ. When asked of one thing that sets his son apart, Paul referenced the brain, not the brawn, and believes there's future all-star potential.
"Hockey sense," he said. "Griffin understands the game and people don't really appreciate what that is. It's not knowing who to make the pass to or when to make it. It's small things, like where to have your stick and where is the puck going? It's anticipating, body position and winning the battle. It's the 12 inches to get your shoulder in front of the other guy, how to block him out effectively and have body position in front of the net. Not to compare to Nicklas Lid-strom, but watch him. With his hockey sense the game becomes very simple. Effortless. That's knowledge."
A sporting bloodline doesn't hurt, either, and it often looks like the game comes too easy to Griffin, like there's another level of intensity he should be bringing on a more regular basis. But after 21 interviews at the recent NHL combine - and follow-up interviews with the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets - most are sold on the package.
Griffin admires the steadiness of Shea Weber and Chris Pronger but doesn't pattern himself after any particular blueliner.
"The way I play is kind of an accepted style, but working hard for a bigger guy some-times it doesn't look like it," he said.
"Sometimes, people kind of misread it. I am working hard. My physical play has really improved this year and so has my skating and mobility. For my game, mobility is important and I'm happy with where I'm at now and I'll keep working on it and being physical, too.
"Some of it is probably genetics. We all play the same. We're patient and think the game really well and some of that can't be taught. We definitely have that in our family and it's passed down from our dad."
Paul was drafted 12th over-all by Atlanta in 1979, Max went 64th overall in 2010 to the Flames, but Griffin will top them both because there are enough teams in the top 10 with back-end concerns.
The light bulb went on for Griffin while playing in the pee wee ranks at Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver, where he was a teammate of Morgan Rielly, a smooth-skating Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman also expected to be among the top 10 picks Friday.
"I started playing on teams that were really dominating," recalled Griffin. "Since then, and when I got drafted into the WHL, I knew I would have a future if I kept working on it."
At the NHL combine, Griffin excelled in vertical and broad-jump testing but passed on upper-body assessments because of a shoulder injury he played through this sea-son.
"I got banged up a little bit in January and I've been playing with it and it's been fine - it hasn't been bothering me," he stressed.
"There are just a few things that need strengthening and I didn't feel it would be necessary for me to go in and do my maximum and maybe hurt it a little bit more."
The scouts can say one thing, but the highest praise is reserved for a father who knows what's really at stake here and whether his middle son will eventually stand at the front of this draft class.
"He got the best of both worlds - my hockey sense and my wife's size and height," said Paul.
"I don't think you necessarily teach it. You re-affirm to make a good play, based on hockey sense, and understand what it is to keep making those plays. I've always said to the boys, 'Do what you should do, not what you can do.' "
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Ben Kuzma highlights some interesting NHL bloodlines heading into the 2012 draft Friday at Pittsburgh, and final Central Scouting rankings for North American skaters.
PROSPECT: Griffin Reinhart (D, Edmonton, WHL), 10th NA skater; GP: 58, G: 12, A: 24, PTS: 36.
LINK: Father, Paul, (D, Atlanta, Calgary, Vancouver); drafted 12th overall in 1979 by Atlanta; regular-season career totals GP: 648, G: 133, A: 427, PTS: 560.
PROSPECT: Malcolm Subban (G, Belleville, OHL), 1st NA goalie; GP: 39, W: 25, L: 14, GAA: 2.50, saves PCT: .923, SO: 3.
Career totals: GP: 160, G: 21, A: 55, PTS:76, PM:245.
LINK: Brother P.K., big-presence player (D, Montreal); drafted 43rd overall in 2007 by Montreal
PROSPECT: Lukas Sutter (C, Saskatoon, WHL), 39th NA skater; GP: 70, G: 28, A: 31, PTS: 59.
LINK: Father, Rich, tough grinder (RW, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Vancouver, St. Louis, Chicago, Toronto, Tampa Bay); drafted 10th overall in 1982 by Pittsburgh
Career totals: GP: 874, G: 149, A: 166, PTS: 315, PIM: 1,411.
PROSPECT: Brock McGinn (LW, Guelph, OHL), 49th NA skater; GP: 33, G: 12, A: 6, PTS: 18.
LINK: Brother, Jamie, (LW, San Jose, Colorado); drafted 36th overall in 2006 by San Jose; career totals GP: 221, G: 35, A: 27, PTS: 62. Brother Tye (LW, Adirondack, AHL)
Career totals: drafted 119th overall by Philadelphia, no NHL totals.
PROSPECT: Henrik Samuelsson (C/RW, Edmonton, WHL), 75th NA skater; GP: 28, G: 7, A: 16, PTS: 23.
LINK: Father, Ulf, was rough and tough (D, Hartford, Pittsburgh, Rangers, Detroit, Philadelphia); drafted 67th overall in 1982 by Hartford
Career totals: GP: 1,080, G: 57, A: 276, PTS: 333, PIM: 2,453.
PROSPECT: Stefan Matteau (LW, U.S. National Team Development Program); 17th NA skater; GP: 18, G: 6, A: 4, PTS: 10.
LINK: Father, Stephane Matteau, (LW, Calgary, Chicago, New York Rangers, St. Louis, San Jose, Florida); drafted 25th overall in 1987 by Flames
Career totals: GP: 848, G: 144, A: 172. PTS: 316, PIM: 742.
DRAFT ON TV
Friday in Pittsburgh, 4 p.m., TSN
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