While many will be watching to see how Jack Eichel fares in his first season as a pro, Sam Reinhart reminded everyone Friday that the Buffalo Sabres have more than one potential franchise player in the wings.
A natural centre, Reinhart had himself quite a night, scoring three assists as a winger, while his Sabres beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 at the Air Canada Centre.
The 19-year-old knows that head coach Dan Bylsma will be looking at more than just the stat sheet, however.
“A couple bounces go your way and it totally changes the whole game, so I’m not kind of looking at points as anything,” said Reinhart. “I found some areas, last game I was better some areas and in this game I was better (in others).
“Obviously (playing a) different position, there’s some things to get used to. I thought it was a good performance for the most part but you know, there’s still some things to clean up.”
The Sabres recent misfortune has gifted them the second overall pick in each of the past two entry drafts. Eichel, has received plenty of hype so far, and deservedly so, but Reinhart could very well make a difference this season.
He played nine games with the big club last year before being sent back to the WHL where he was able to star for Team Canada at the World Juniors. He comes into camp this time knowing much more what to expect at camp.
“Everything’s a different feel,” he said. “Just coming into the rink every day more positive and more energetic.”
Buffalo is starting to build a team that could contend for a playoff spot.
A mid-season deal brought 30-goal scorer Evander Kane over from Winnipeg, and in the off-season the Sabres were able to acquire two-way centre Ryan O’Reilly and a potential starting goaltender in Robin Lehner from the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators respectively
Of course, Bylsma might also play a part in turning this team around. And coming from Pittsburgh, he knows a thing or two about coaching budding superstars, having done so with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“He’s coached the best players in the world and had success at it,” said Reinhart. “So obviously, when he talks, we’re trying to take everything in and it definitely helps.”
Bylsma, for his part, downplayed the pressure being put on his two rookies.
“It hasn’t been a focal point for around our team,” he said. “So Sam’s just coming in, and I think he’s got a lot to prove in how he can play, and that’s what he’s doing.”