Reinhart puts skills on display in Canada victory at WJC camp
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Sam Reinhart is viewed by many as the early favorite to be the first player picked at the 2014 NHL Draft, and on Wednesday against Finland he showed why.
Reinhart, who plays for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League, scored a goal, showed his puck management skills and killed penalties as Canada made its debut here at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp with a 5-3 victory against Finland.
Reinhart is known as an offensive dynamo -- he led Kootenay in goals (35), assists (50) and points (85) last season -- but he was a key part of Canada's perfect 6-for-6 effort on the penalty kill.
"I know Sam is an 18-year-old player," Canada coach Brent Sutter said. "He's a very good hockey player and I have no problem whatsoever putting him in all those key situations."
While Reinhart enjoyed scoring a goal, being able to kill penalties was also nice. He said he does that with Kootenay, but to do it on this stage is a bit of a badge of honor.
"It's good," he said. "It always gives you a little more confidence when he relies on you in certain situations."
While the second-youngest player at the camp, Reinhart already has distinguished himself as a strong candidate to make the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship team. He certainly had no problem keeping up with the pace in his first taste of top-level under-20 international hockey.
"It was good, went really well," he said. "I think both teams took a couple minutes to get going, but once we did, it was a pretty fast-paced game the whole way through."
Finland opened the scoring when Kasper Kapanen, another top 2014 draft prospect, wristed a shot from the slot past Canada goalie Eric Comrie 51 seconds into the game.
Reinhart evened the score with a great individual effort. He held onto the puck as he skated through the Finland zone, lost it for a second, but recovered, spun and fired a hard shot that eluded Finland goalie Juuse Saros at 10:11.
"It seemed like a broken-down play," Reinhart said. "I just quickly turned around and shot and Rykes [Kerby Rychel] was in front and doing a great job of screening the goalie and I had a lot of net to shoot at."
Just 27 seconds later Canada took the lead when Frederik Gauthier knocked in a loose puck in front of the Finland net to make it 2-1.
In between the goals, Canada had to kill off three Finland power plays. Reinhart teamed with Felix Girard, a Nashville Predators draft pick, to help the effort.
"You look at [Reinhart] and Felix, they're both really, really solid two-way guys," Sutter said. "They understand the details of the game, they're smart players. I'm very comfortable using those guys killing penalties."
Girard, who previously played with Reinhart at the 2012 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, said he's seen great growth from his teammate, even though Girard remembers being highly impressed with how Reinhart, then 16, handled the pressure of high-level international hockey.
"I think he's smarter with puck management now," Girard told NHL.com. "When I saw him, he was 16 years old, he was good with the puck, I could tell he had good hockey sense and he's a smart kid. I see right now he's way smarter with the puck and he has experience to his game. … He's a good player, got great hockey sense. He knows where the puck is going before it goes there. He's a smart kid on the ice. It's nice to play with him."
Saku Salminen's one-timer off a pass from Juuso Ikonen 3:07 into the second period tied the game, and Saros kept things that way through the middle 20 minutes. His best save came midway through. With Canada's Mark Jankowski hanging on the crossbar, Saros was down on his belly and used his glove to slap away a Brendan Gaunce shot. He also held strong through back-to-back Canada power plays late in the period, including a 14-second 5-on-3 advantage.
Canada swapped its lines around the third and the result was three goals, including the tie-breaker from Girard 3:39 into the period. Emile Poirier carried the puck to the net but was stopped by Saros. Girard followed the play and scored on the rebound.
"I think this is how international hockey and high-level hockey is played," Girard said. "You need to go to the net and grab some rebounds because there's so many good players here, it's hard to make highlight goals and carry the puck all the way. You need to play a simple game, put the puck on net and that's how it worked for my goal."
The same could be said for a goal by Gaunce at 10:03 of the period. A newly constructed line of Gaunce between Anthony Mantha and Rychel resulted in Gaunce digging the puck out from under Saros and scoring as he was knocked down to make it 4-2.
"That's how they have to play," Sutter said of the trio. "That's the type of game they have to play. They have to be dependable players and they have to be heavy players. … To get to play on this team, they're not going to be top-six forwards, they have to play heavy, play the right way, and I thought in the third period that line played well for us."
Artturi Lehkonen rifled a shot from the slot past Comrie at 15:07 to make it a one-goal game, but Hunter Shinkaruk closed the scoring when he picked up a puck in the neutral zone, skated through a Finland player's check and scored into an empty net at 18:46.
"You're getting a group of young men together that play on all different club teams across our nation, you're trying to gel them, trying to get them to understand one way we want to play here," Sutter said. "It takes a little bit of time [but] for the first game I was extremely happy."
Reinhart also was happy with his game, and to have the first one out of the way.
"That first one is huge to get under your belt," he said. "[Thursday against Sweden] will be a better game."
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor