Is Griffin Reinhart Ready To Make The Islanders?

Griffin Reinhart was selected by the Islanders with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The 6'4, 202-pound defenseman recently signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Isles that could kick into effect as soon as the 2013 season. (Photo Credit: mandelux12/Flickr)

Many of you are already familiar with the way that this can play out. Reinhart will have nine games of NHL eligibility next season before he could be sent back to his Junior team, the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. The 18-year old defenseman has already played three seasons for the Oil Kings and had his best last year, scoring 12 goals, 24 assists for 36 points in 58 games played. That totals an eleven point increase over the previous season.

Reinhart clearly has the size, but the question will be if he has the skill and mentality to compete at the NHL level. It typically takes defenseman a bit of a longer time to adjust to the NHL game. There are some exceptions, of course, but that is usually the norm when compared to forwards.

Another year of Junior hockey wouldn't hurt Reinhart. The Islanders have plenty of young defenseman that are ready for their opportunity to join the club.

Calvin de Haan, who was taken 12th overall in 2009, has spent plenty of time between his Junior team and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and may be the most anxious player for a shot at the NHL. Aaron Ness got plenty of looks while with the Islanders last year. Matt Donovan, who has already impressed many with his short stints with the Islanders, might be the most offensively gifted and NHL ready defenseman out of the bunch.

With these three players jostling for that sixth spot on defense, it might be best for Reinhart to spend one more final year with his Junior club.

At the end of 2013, both Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky (who is still waiting for a court date regarding his grievance filed with the NHLPA over his trade) will be unrestricted free agents. If one or both were to no longer be with the Islanders by the next off-season, Reinhart will then have an even greater opportunity to impress the Islanders brass and join the regular line-up.

But then again, the Isles have always been about giving their prospects an early shot at proving themselves at the NHL level. Just look at Josh Bailey and Nino Niederreiter. Heck, we might even see Ryan Strome get his chance at being the team's number two center if the roster doesn't change anymore by the time we reach training camp.

Reinhart still looks to be a very impressive prospect with a ton of upside that could potentially lock him as a top pairing defenseman of the future. But the question still remains as to what should be done with him right now.

-Rob McGowan
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