Should I have been surprised? Probably not. Was I? Yes. The 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects game showed the hockey world last night as to why the focal point of this year’s draft class is defensemen.
The game produced a record low three goals with the 2-1 final score. Defensemen also accounted for two of the three goals. When you’re thinking about that, keep this is mind: Four defensemen rated by Future Considerations in February’s Top-30 weren’t there due to injury (Morgan Rielly, Codi Ceci, Slater Koekkoek and Olli Maatta) and the two teams still could only manage a trio of goals.
I can’t take anything away from the goaltenders. All four were solid, but the work of the 12 blueliners really impressed me. I would be shocked if all of them didn’t hear their names called at the NHL Entry Draft this June in Pittsburgh.
Team Canada’s Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, the most highly touted was his usual smooth skating solid defending self. Red Deer Rebel’s Mathew Dumba, ranked fourth, was expected to make an impact and, yes, the Calgary product delivered the hit of the game. A thundering jolt that sent Kitchener Rangers forward Radek Faksa to the ice. He didn’t look too bad in the post-hit scrap with Raphael Bussieres. These defensemen can flat out play.
The one defenseman who arguably made the biggest impact on me was Edmonton Oil King Griffin Reinhart. What I like and I am guessing more importantly what the scout’s like is the large, six-foot-four, 205 pounder seems to be getting better and better. Reinhart is enjoying a terrific sophomore campaign with the Oil Kings. Year one was impressive but injury plagued. While the big blueliner, a member of Team Canada’s gold medal winning team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Under 18 tournament in August, has missed some time this season with injury, by and large he has been healthy and very effective.
Reinhart, the son of former NHLer Paul, has good mobility for a player his size and his offensive game is growing leaps and bounds. Reinhart, one of three brothers toiling in the WHL these days, scored a goal last night and made a number of good decisions to jump into the play in the offensive zone.
Last season I would rate my Reinhart temperature gauge as lukewarm. Right now the letter would be H – for hot. Griffin comes from great stock, and if the Top Prospects game is any indication his 15th overall ranking could climb a couple of notches by draft day in Steeltown.