It’s getting close to the end of training camp, and the New York Islanders are finally helping us visualize what our roster will look like when the regular season opens next Friday night in New Jersey.
As of this morning, head coach Jack Capuano and the rest of the New York Islanders brass have separated their training camp roster into two separate squads – an NHL group and an AHL/Junior hockey group. Notables including Calvin de Haan, Joe Finley and Anders Nilsson went with Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Scott Pellerin to IceWorks, while Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Matt Donovan and Griffin Reinhart stuck with the main roster at the Nassau Coliseum.
That’s interesting. While so many of this preseason’s questions may have just been answered – Poulin appears to have won the backup goaltender position, Donovan appears to have beat out de Haan on the blue-line, etc. – one big question may have been introduced only ten days before the Islanders season begins: Could Reinhart sneak on the Islanders opening night roster?
He hasn’t been a huge topic of conversation this summer. The last time we saw Reinhart was at the Orange vs. Blue scrimmage in July, and most spectators felt the 19-year-old defenseman still needed some time to polish up his game in the WHL; however, two months later, here he is.
The thought of Reinhart making the team, at least from those outside of the organization, probably didn’t begin to come into focus until it was him playing in Thomas Hickey’s spot during the NHL’s first game at the Barclays Center. Griffin joined Travis Hamonic, Andrew MacDonald, Brian Strait, Lubomir Visnovsky and Matt Donovan on the team’s blue-line for the Isles’ 3-0 loss in Brooklyn, while Hickey, Carkner and Finley, all who played with the big club in 2013, were held out.
While it’s hard to determine if the Islanders see Reinhart as a full-time NHL regular at this moment (he was practiced on the team’s fourth D-pairing with Carkner this morning), his age makes him eligible for a nine-game tryout, last used on Nino Niederreiter at the start of the 2010-11 season.
The Islanders defense is lacking size. Reinhart’s 6’4, 205-pound frame would put him up there with Carkner as the team’s largest defenseman, yet the added skill-set separates him from anybody else on Long Island. Even if, after the nine games, the Isles feel the need to return Griffin to junior hockey, keeping him on the roster for the opening month could be worth the risk because of that very fact that he brings a unique set of talents to the team.
Over the weekend, Reinhart told NHL.com’s Deputy Editing Manager Brian Compton that he has improved his game enough to facilitate his transition to the pro-style brand of hockey.
“I’ve improved my skating and the way I think the game,” Reinhart said. “I’m going to continue to work, and if I can keep improving in those areas, I think I’ll be able to make the transition to the pros that much easier. I don’t feel like there’s one specific flaw in my game that I need to improve, but there’s a bunch of little habits that make the difference between juniors and the pros, and hopefully I can do those things.”
Reinhart may get his chance in the form of nine games. If he can find a way to stick around, the Islanders could add another [unanticipated] dynamic to the roster for the 2013-14 campaign.
Are you surprised that Griffin Reinhart has stuck around to this point? Do you want him to receive a nine-game tryout? Sound off!