Last year saw Kevin Korchinski enter the top-ten discussion in later February as he kept piling up impressive assist totals in Seattle. Two years before that, Jake Sanderson’s terrific showing at a February U18 tournament vaulted him into the top five in Recrutes’ rankings. It was a similar case in 2017 when Miro Heiskanen wowed scouts with a virtuoso February tournament performance that had North American scouts flocking to Finland to see him for the rest of the year.
In a draft year where few defence prospects have warranted top-ten consideration, scouts have been waiting patiently for this year’s Sanderson. Would a defenceman make a late-season surge and crack the top seven on draft lists like Korchinski, Sanderson and Heiskanen?
David Reinbacher may be that prospect. Plenty of North American crossover scouts have been flying over to scout him in recent weeks as his season is quickly coming to a close, and they’re liking what they’re seeing.
“He reads the game well.” said one scout. “His puck game is better than average. He may have offensive upside.”
Since returning from the World Juniors and fully recovering from a virus that affected his performance in Halifax, Reinbacher has been playing 20+ minutes a game on the top-pairing of a Swiss men’s team at the age of 18. Reinbacher recently had a ten-game stretch where he had eight points, and while no one is expecting a Moritz Seider-type blossoming of his offensive game after being drafted, part of his appeal is that there is plenty of room for growth in his game.
“He has good power in straight lines,” noted one scout who saw him three times recently on a European trip. “He needs to work on his quickness and mobility. He’s grown a lot in the past year, so it’s likely just a question of filling out. He plays with a physical edge. You may see him develop into a solid shutdown defender.”
The Austrian native is turning heads with his edge and all-around play. He’s a smooth, powerful, 6-2 thoroughbred who moves pucks well and defends effectively one-on-one. In a draft year where the pickings may be slim when it comes to high-end defence prospects, Reinbacher has jumped into the top-ten discussion. It’s not out of the question that he gets strong consideration for the top five in the coming months.
Reinbacher may well be the first defenceman taken, and considering how highly valued defencemen always end up being at the draft, don’t be shocked if a team in the top five grabs a blueliner higher than folks think, much like New Jersey’s selection last year of Simon Nemec ahead of Shane Wright and Logan Cooley. It’s been 20 years since a defenceman wasn’t selected in the draft’s top five.
“If you a find a player who can log 20-plus minutes per game… how do you not at least consider him in the top five?” asked one scout. “Reinbacher may be a minute muncher. He’s already playing 20 minutes a night in a fast pro league, and he’s more than holding his own.”
Here are his notable plays in a recent game versus Biel-Bienne:
It’s hard not to equate his journey to Seider’s. A native of neighbouring Germany, a tall right defenceman who played top-line minutes in a European pro league with tons of ex-NHLers in his draft year, a late riser in the draft rankings who had lots of room for growth.
While no one expects him to be the next Seider, it’s not a stretch to suggest that Seider’s instant NHL success may help Reinbacher’s draft stock. Some clubs may have found it too risky to draft a German defenceman in the top ten for the first time ever in Seider’s 2019 draft class. There may be less hesitancy to take Reinbacher high after Seider jumped into the league and captured the Calder Trophy in Detroit.
Time will tell. There are lots of games still to see, video to study and interviews to be conducted before NHL teams start shaping their final lists. Perhaps a defenceman dominates the U18 and vaults into the top five. Maybe one has a fantastic playoff and climbs the rankings. Some teams may take a long look at the video of the top Russian defencemen Mikhail Gulyayev and Dmitri Simashev and decide that they have to have one of them.
What’s most apparent at this point is that if you polled NHL scouts today, the majority of them would list Reinbacher or Axel Sandin-Pellikka at the top. The Swede will have the final opportunity to impress as he’ll join Sweden for the U-18 event April 20-30 in Switzerland. Unfortunately, Austria was relegated and won’t participate, so Reinbacher’s time to shine is now. He looks to have answered the bell.
You can see Recrutes’ latest draft rankings here: