The buzz about defense came true as three of the first five picks in the 2012 NHL Draft were used on defensemen. The question with so many blueliners in the pool is whether they were used on the right defensemen.
Ryan Murray (Blue Jackets) was the yearlong draft darling, so no surprise to see him go second overall. Morgan Rielly (Maple Leafs) was the high-ceiling guy held back by a big injury, so not shocking to see the Leafs take him in the fifth spot. And Griffin Reinhart was the big body to go with skills, so not a stretch to see him go in the top five either.
The New York Islanders went with the big guy from the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Islanders like Reinhart's combination of size (6'4", 207 lbs.) and skills and progress over the last two seasons, though it depends on which board you look at if you think he was the right defenseman to go second.
(TSN had him ranked fourth overall, behind only Murray among defensemen. Honestly, the way the defensemen have gone in pre-draft rankings and through the draft so far, opinion varies widely on who is best.)
He could be very good. He might end up just average. But he has the combo of skills to make him an interesting NHL defenseman regardless.
The other question is whether you think the Islanders should "go D" with a pick that high. They left some enticing forwards on the table, including the very talented Mikhail Grigorenko as well as Filip Forsberg and Teuvo Teravainen.
In the TSN draft interview immediately afterward -- a very quick, standard scrum -- Garth Snow said, "We obviously liked his size, his skill set. On a winning team he has a lot of intangibles we're looking for in a hockey player. ... A lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears by Griffin to put him in this position to be drafted fourth overall."
The selection breaks from pattern under Snow (as much as four years can be a pattern), where the Islanders have used a top 10 pick on a forward the four previous seasons. It also represents the second big move Friday to shore up the organizational blueline, as just minutes before the Reinhart selection the Islanders announced the acquisition of Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2013 2nd-round pick.
However, it also continues a pattern of sorts, as the Islanders have drafted bigger defensemen the past two drafts than what they had previously targeted early in Snow's tenure as GM.
Views on Reinhart
He has a an excellent understanding of the game with a composure and patience that may suggest a lack of urgency but don't be confused, his competitive waters run deep and he's capable of being aggressive and assertive when necessary. He is a very good skater with strong balance and agility and along with his size, he is extremely difficult to break down 1-1 and gain an advantage on. He uses his body effectively and doesn't lose position and is capable of punishing opponents. His vision is very good, he sees the play unfolding, knows what his options are and is capable of doing this very quickly.
Reinhart is a very toolsy big defenseman who has progressed nicely over the last year and even since the start of the season. He looks like a legit offensive defenseman who is well above average skill-wise considering his 6'4" frame. He's a smart player who is able to be effective in all situations and has learnt how to make the most of his tools, rather than your usual big defenseman who at 17-18 typically are much more raw. Reinhart is above average with the puck, showing good poise, and is quite calm under pressure. What separates him from other big defensemen is that he has the puck skills to make people miss, execute all the little plays in tight quarters, and to deliver crisp, accurate passes consistently. Reinhart also has a more aggressive offensive element to his game as he will join the rush and doesn't shy from being creative in the offensive end of the rink.
Reinhart is an imposing frame and one of the taller WHL players. One of the real attractive aspects of Reinhart’s game is his proficiency offensively as well as defensively. Offensively, he has a solid point shot, join into rushes but doesn’t force the play, and makes crisp outlet passes. Defensively, he is positionally sound, and knows how to use his long reach. Reinhart takes the body effectively and doesn’t go around looking to destroy the opposition. His toughness has been questioned but he answered the bell during the playoffs.
Reinhart on being selected and what he's learned from his father, former NHLer Paul: "He coached me for a while, and he's taught me all the little things to know about hockey."
On being selected high (his dad was selected 12th overall by the Atlanta Flames): "Heh, definitely cool to be chosen ahead of him, but he had a great career, and until I do that, he's got bragging rights."