The Big Cat is in town, and he brought his pride with him.
Bestowed upon him by an assistant coach, the nickname for Griffin Reinhart has stuck, and the Oil Kings captain, along with the rest of Edmonton’s big guns, have made the trip to Kootenay country for the next two games of their first-round playoff matchup against the Ice.
Reinhart, the middle brother between the trio of siblings, is the second brother to get drafted and signed to a contract, after the New York Islanders selected him fourth overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
The 6’ 4” rearguard has had a big year, earning a spot on the Canadian squad for the World Junior Championship in Russia over the Christmas break while leading the Oil Kings as team captain to another successful season as defending WHL champions.
Reinhart has been happy with his performance this season, noting things have gotten better after having what he called an average start.
“It started off pretty average,” said Reinhart, “and then I left for a little bit for the World Juniors, and then right into the Islanders camp, and when I came back, I think I started to elevate my play and carried that into playoffs.
“…I think it’s helped a lot getting the experience overseas, playing in the World Juniors at that level, and then right from there, going over to the NHL camp and skating with all those guys—I think that’s elevated my skating and I’ve started training harder, seeing what the other guys can do, so that’s helped me a lot.”
Reinhart is the middle sibling between former Kootenay Ice forward Max Reinhart, a Calgary Flames prospect who is now playing with the Abbotsford Heat, and Sam Reinhart, who is playing in his second WHL season with the Kootenay Ice.
Heading from the World Juniors right into NHL training camp with the Islanders following the end of the NHL Lockout in January gave him a renewed sense of purpose.
“I took away, especially from that Islanders camp, just how hard the guys train, whether its in practice or off the ice and what they eat and how well they treat themselves—I think that’s the biggest difference between junior and NHL players, is how they treat their bodies.”
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said Reinhart’s defensive role has changed slightly since last season.
“His offensive production is down a bit from last year and we’re starting to see him turn into more of a well-rounded solid stay-at-home defenceman with an upside on the offensive side,” said Laxdal.
“I think the Islanders camp really opened his eyes on the extra work you have to do after practice to play at that level and he’s come back with a great attitude that’s rubbed off on some of our kids.”