Sam Reinhart became the highest selection of his siblings when he was drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres this past weekend at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia.
Three of Reinhart’s teammates with the Kootenay Ice were also chosen by NHL teams, as D Rinat Valiev went 68th overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs; RW Jaedon Deschneau went 124th overall to the St. Louis Blues and D Tanner Faith went 139th overall to the Minnesota Wild.
Four NHL-drafted members of the Kootenay Ice ties a franchise record, which was originally set in 1997.
There was a lot of drama leading up to the opening of the draft on Friday night, which featured the first round only, with a crop of four or five players that could’ve been chosen first overall.
After Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad was taken by the Florida Panthers, who held the opening selection, the Buffalo Sabres—led by GM Tim Murray—took the podium.
Without much hesitation, he called out Reinhart’s name.
The Kootenay Ice captain hugged his family members before heading up on stage and donning a Sabres cap and jersey for a photo op.
“I’m ecstatic right now,” said Reinhart, in an interview with TSN. “This is the best moment of my life to be honest. Before the draft started, I was upstairs in the concourse, there was about 20 Buffalo fans that I was talking to and signing autographs, so I’m thrilled to be coming, I’m looking forward to it, and I want to get started right away.”
Reinhart becomes the highest drafted member of his family, as Griffin went fourth overall (NY Islanders, 2012) and Max went 64th overall (Calgary Flames, 2010), while dad Paul Reinhart went 12th overall (Atlanta Flames, 1979).
He also becomes the highest drafted member in Ice franchise history, breaking the previous record set by former goaltender Dan Blackburn, who was chosen 10th overall by the New York Rangers in 2001.
Murray said the youngest member of the family was at the top of the Sabres list.
“Watching him play, he rose to the occasion in big games, not just the World Juniors,” Murray said. “We got to see him lots out west, I think his team was supposed to lose in the first round to Calgary, and he just took them and beat them and he has the ability to be special and make the players around him really special.”
It’s not inconceivable to think that Reinhart could stick in Buffalo next year, considering the Sabres are in the middle of a full-blown rebuild.
“I know it’s a young team, I’ve pictured myself in that lineup quite a few times,” said Reinhart. “I’ve been very motivated over the last couple years to get in there, so I’m thrilled to be picked and I’m excited for the future.”
Reinhart has a Kootenay Ice connection with fellow Sabres prospect Nathan Lieuwen, who made his NHL debut this past season and is currently with their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans.
Following the first round on Friday night, NHL teams reconvened on Saturday morning at Wells Fargo Centre to finish off the rest of the draft.
Kootenay Ice D Rinat Valiev was the next to go, getting scooped up in the third round 68th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Then the Ice was represented twice in the fifth round, starting with Descheneau, who was chosen 124th overall by the Blues.
Descheneau, who was passed over last time in his first year of eligibility, wasn’t sure what was going to happen this time around, even though he was ranked by the Central Scouting bureau.
“Going into this year’s draft, I had a better idea that I’d get picked, but I still thought maybe I wouldn’t, but it went well,” Descheneau said.
He watched Reinhart, his linemate, go to the Sabres on Friday night, and was going to get up and watch the rest on Saturday.
However, he misread the start of the broadcast for the second round, thinking it began at 10 a.m., when it actually started two hours beforehand.
“I was sleeping and I got a phone call from my buddy and, not knowing I was picked already, he told me I got picked,” said Descheneau.
“And then all of the sudden my phone just blew up halfway through the conversation—all these text messages started coming in.”
Descheneau, who has never been to the state of Missouri, will head down to St. Louis in a week for a summer camp, which will give the Blues a chance to kick the tires on their new prospects. However, he is under no illusions that he will likely be back in the WHL next September.
“It’d be a tremendous honour to play for them in the next few years,” said Descheneau. “Obviously, I’m going to be back in Kootenay again, but hopefully I can get up into their farm system in a couple years and play there.”
Fifteen selections later, Kootenay Ice teammate Tanner Faith went 139th overall to the Minnesota Wild.
It was a tough season for Faith, who only appeared in 10 games after missing much of the first half of the year to a shoulder injury before surgery in January ended it for good.
Back home in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, Faith was out on the local golf links when he got a text message from Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth, congratulating him on becoming the newest member of the Wild organization.
Not that it helped his golf game.
“Terrible,” Faith laughed. “I couldn’t focus.”
It’s been roughly five months into rehab with his shoulder, and Faith said it is feeling stronger than ever.
“It’s holding up really good,” he said. “It’s maybe stronger than it’s ever been, so I got a lot of confidence in it and just have to get back to playing hockey.”
As far as first impressions of Minnesota go, Faith is pretty excited to be heading down to their summer cam in a week.
“The people that I talked to sounded very nice, they sounded very welcoming,” he said. It seems like a very good organization and I’ve heard a lot of really good things about them. Heard its’ a great place to play—they pack the house every night—and they have good fans.”
“Though the four were drafted by NHL teams, Ice centreman Luke Philp remained available after eight rounds. Philp was ranked as the 82nd overall CSS North American skater, but remains an undrafted prospect.