It was a numbers game, as much as a desire to enhance his development, that led the New York Islanders to return defenseman Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League today. With Cal Clutterbuck ready to return to action after spending the season’s first week on IR, somebody had to go in order to create roster space. And Reinhart, who’d been confined to the press box for the Isles’ first three games in favor of Matt Donovan and Brian Strait, was the easiest cut to make.
That probably doesn’t make him feel any better about the demotion, though, since he’s now confined to junior hockey for the rest of the season. The fourth-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Reinhart already has three years of that circuit under his belt, so there’s not a lot left for him to prove at that level . . . at least in his opinion.
“It’s a little frustrating not playing, but I’ve been in junior several years now, and I don’t think there’s too much more for me to be learned down there,” Reinhart told The New York Post on Tuesday. “So I think just practicing here — even if I was just practicing here all year, and playing a few games — I’d learn more from these guys than going back to junior.”
Obviously, GM Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano didn’t share that thinking.
The 19-year-old made the team out of camp after playing well in four preseason appearances, scoring two points to go along with his plus-2 rating. He’ll have a chance now to play a key role for Team Canada at the World Juniors — he could end up captaining the squad — and his presence makes the Oil Kings a good bet to challenge for the WHL’s Eastern Division title.
That might not seem like much now, but it might be what’s best for Reinhart’s development in the long run.