Although he only got in one game with Team WHL, it’s safe to say Sam Reinhart’s stock rose even higher in the eyes of Hockey Canada during the Subway Super Series.
The young Kootenay Ice sniper was in on one of Team WHL’s best chances against the Russians in regulation, but it was his shootout goal that stood as the winner in Game Five last week in Vancouver.
“It was great,” said Reinhart of his experience. “All around, you’re playing with the best players in Western Canada and you’re playing with the top guys in all of junior in Russia, so that’s huge.
“I was really happy with my game and the players around made it a lot easier, playing with those top guys.”
The Super Series is billed as a precursor to the World Junior Championships, as the event gives Hockey Canada the chance to look at the top players in all three major-junior leagues in the CHL.
Reinhart was one of three 1995-born players on the roster who got the chance to lace up the skates as part of the Team WHL leg of the series. As an added treat, he got to play with his older brother Griffin, a rearguard with the Edmonton Oil Kings and the fourth overall selection by the New York Islanders in the 2012 NHL Draft.
“It’s a little frustrating the last couple years having to play against Griffin as I’m used to growing up playing with him all my life in minor hockey, so it was definitely good to be back on his team for a little bit.”
Curtis Lazar, 17, and Reinhart were on the same line and nearly put Team WHL ahead in regulation when Russian goaltender Andrey Makarov misplayed the puck behind the net. Reinhart picked up the biscuit at the side boards and fired it on a nearly gaping net with Lazar near the crease for a tip, but no goal resulted.
“We’re definitely familiar with each other, going back to U16 a couple years ago,” said Reinhart. “We’ve definitely got a little bit of chemistry but all the players are so good that you can really fit in with anyone and it’s a treat to play with [them].”
Laurent Brossoit was brilliant in the first game, stopping everything from the Russians, and kept them off the board in the shootout. Hunter Shinkaruk and Mark McNeil scored in the shootout, but Team WHL’s third goal—from Reinhart—prevented the Russians from mounting a comeback.
The team had done a shootout at the end of their only practice on Tuesday, and Team WHL head coach Don Nachbaur, who leads the Spokane Chiefs, tapped the Kootenay forward for the third spot in front of a hometown crowd.
Team WHL defence man Duncan Siemens, who patrols the blue line in front of Makarov in Saskatoon, warned Reinhart to stay away from the glove side.
Reinhart ended up beating Makarov by faking a backhand and stuffing the puck by the post on his forehand.
“I was pretty confident with the move I was doing, so I didn’t really second guess myself,” said Reinhart.
Reinhart, 17, is on the younger spectrum of prospects for the World Junior Championships, but the Kootenay Ice forward has worn the Maple Leaf before, representing Canada this past summer at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, where the team won a gold medal. He was also part of Team Canada that captured the bronze medal in the U18 World Championships last April in the Czech Republic.