Buffalo Sabres: Sam Reinhart goes from strength to strength

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 5: Sam Reinhart
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 5: Sam Reinhart /

While it remains to be seen if Sam Reinhart will ever truly live up to the expectations that come with being a second overall draft pick, he’s still done enough to deserve another chance with the Buffalo Sabres.

It was Dec. 29 and the Buffalo Sabres had just completed their 2017 schedule with a 4-3 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils. However, not everyone had reason to celebrate.

With the year nearly over, Sam Reinhart had just 11 points in 38 games; a poor return for a player who was selected second overall in the 2014 draft. Even worse, as noted by John Vogl of The Buffalo News, he had just one points — an assist — in his last 16 games.

Eichel had entered the season with a lot to prove. By making him play out the final year of his entry-level contract, the Sabres were essentially telling him to show he deserved a long-term deal.

Faced with these circumstances, it would have been easy for the 22-year-old to be disheartened, or give up altogether. However, as the saying goes: ‘Adversity does not create character, it reveals it’.

In that respect, the start of a new year revealed a refocused and re-energized Reinhart. He scored goals in his first two games in 2018 and was off and running.

Since the start of the year, the North Vancouver, British Columbia native has 37 points (19 goals and 18 assists) in 41 games. And the culmination of his turnaround has come in the Sabres’ two most recent games.

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First up, Reinhart helped the Swords beat the Nashville Predators 7-4 on Saturday night. He secured the second hat-trick of his NHL career; the fact it came against the top team in the league made it even more impressive.

And even though the Sabres lost 5-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night, at least their young forward had something to celebrate. With one goal, he set a new personal single-season best of 24.

In addition, Reinhart also set a new single-season high of 48 points, despite averaging less ice time than last season. With three games remaining, he sits firmly in third place on the team scoring charts.

The 2013-14 WHL Player of the Year discussed his success in 2018 on Monday night, following the Leafs game. As reported by Vogl, he said:

"“I’m just trying to produce every night. That’s what I’ve got to be for this team. That’s my mindset, that I need to produce on a nightly basis and be consistent.“This is the way I feel I can play. It’s not like it’s five games in a row. This has been consistent.”"

Fair or not, even with his more consistent play, questions will still surround Reinhart. While he came out of college with a reputation as a skilled and versatile playmaker with good upside, he still needs to show he can produce over the course of an entire season.

This has to be considered, when the Buffalo Sabres decide what to do after the season. Will they just give the pending restricted free agent a one-year qualifying offer, or attempt to negotiate a long-term contract?

For what it’s worth, Reinhart seems to have a fan in coach Phil Housley. As reported by WGR 550, Housley said:

"“On the powerplay he’s very deadly in front of the net. He’s getting pieces of pucks and is really good down low. His determination has led to his turnaround after his tough start.”"

It will be interesting to see what direction the Sabres take with Reinhart in the summer. For now though, all he can do is continue to produce over the remainder of this season, to give Jason Botterill and company plenty to think about.

Next: Third time lucky in the draft lottery?

What’s your take on Reinhart’s season with the Buffalo Sabres? Moving forward, would you just offer him a one-year deal, or negotiate a long-term contract with him? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.