Isles' prospect Reinhart working hard for roster spot

Griffin Reinhart of the Orange Team skates during Griffin Reinhart of the Orange Team skates during the Islanders Rookie Scrimmage and Skills Competition. (July 11, 2013) Photo Credit: Mike Stobe

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Your average 19-year-old vying for a spot on an NHL roster is trying to fit in while also doing enough to stand out. It's a delicate balance, and a big reason why there aren't too many 19-year-olds in the league.

Griffin Reinhart has it a bit tougher, being a defenseman, and a very no-frills one at that. But the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft is getting noticed by the coaching staff this training camp, his first full one, and could be forcing some interesting choices with his play so far.

"You go back to his development, the way he's progressed since we drafted him," Jack Capuano said of Reinhart. "He's worked hard to get to this point."

And Reinhart, who still has a year of junior eligibility left, intends on working hard to stay. The Islanders have nine regular-season games to see what Reinhart has to offer before sending him back to Edmonton of the Western League or burning the first year of his entry-level contract.

Reinhart has been paired with Matt Carkner in practices this week, indicating he may not be among the top six defensemen in camp, but there are still three preseason games remaining -- including Friday night's game at the Coliseum against the Predators.

"I don't just want to fit in, I want to make an impact and prove I belong here, to the coaches and my teammates," Reinhart said. "I don't just want to be a floater. At the same time, I've got to limit my mistakes and take advantage of my opportunity."

Reinhart comes from serious NHL stock. His father, Paul, played 11 seasons with the Flames and Canucks; older brother Max made his NHL debut with the Flames last season and younger brother Sam could be the top pick in the 2014 draft.

But Griffin, at 6-4 and 202 pounds, is the only one of the younger generation of Reinharts to follow his father as a defenseman. He scored a goal in his first preseason game in Calgary last week, but piling up points is not his thing. He had eight goals and 21 assists for Edmonton last season in junior.

So he has to stand out by doing the defensive-zone work that often goes unnoticed when a defenseman does it well: Moving opposing forwards away from the net, closing out shooting and passing lanes and staying in good position.

How to stand out while still being fundamentally sound? It's a challenge.

"A little bit of both," he said. "I'll want to hold my ground, limit my mistakes, but you've also got to make an impact somehow. I know I'm not going to make this team if I just blend in and don't contribute. I've got to look to do both."

You also may be interested in: