That's how Griffin Reinhart, still in the WHL and likely to be there again next season, lands above some older players already making pro salaries on our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 countdown.
Reinhart qualifies as one of those defensemen who's good at everything and could become an all-situations defenseman in the NHL. The offensive side of his game won't be prolific -- he's not a flashy puck-rusher -- but he handles the puck calmly with good decisions and is not out of place on the power play.
Meanwhile, his defensive reads and efficient movements have people thinking he should be a top four for sure, maybe even a top pair guy in the NHL. His size (6'4) and strength are obvious, but he doesn't go out of his way (read: out of position) just to make big hits. That leaves people wanting more "nastiness" given his frame, though that may be a luxury that takes a back seat to playing the rest of the position well.
It was a good first post-draft season for Reinhart, selected fourth overall in the 2012 draft. He captained a great WHL club in Edmonton and was a key part of Team Canada's defense at the World Junior Championship. (However, he received a four-game suspension for a rather fluke high-stick, a suspension that will carry over three games into next winter's tournament.)
Unfortunately for Reinhart, his season ended in the playoffs with this. The torn ligament in his foot from a cut probably costs him a couple of months of training and body development, another factor in his bid for a spot with the Islanders next year.
Reinhart knows it will be another big year for him and a return to Edmonton for a fourth WHL season is possible, however. And thanks to the legendary CHL-NHL agreement for juniors his age, a transition through the AHL in 2013-14 is not on the table.
Here is how our panel of punditry ranked Reinhart this spring:
And a few rationales from the panel on why they placed him where they did:
Just on the outside of the Top 10 (in my book), Reinhart has the size and the skill, but still needs a couple years before he'll be ready to contribute in the NHL. Very sound defensively, his offensive game isn't as prevalent as you'd expect from a Top 5 pick. I was impressed by his WJC play in the defensive end, although a guy of his size needs to play a bit more physical. Reinhart also has a nice shot from the point which could eventually land him on the point during the power play.
Mike o' FIGs:
He's likely going to be a solid d-man in this league. From the reports by those who watch him, he doesn't have any big flaws.
Big body, has a chance to be a very good all around defenseman.
So there you have it. Reinhart is probably still a year or two away, but his potential and importance in the Isles' long-term plans has him high on the radar for our 25U25.