Second Round Favorite: David Reinbacher, D, EHC Kloten, Swiss NL
When a 17/18-year old player is 6’2”, 187 pounds and finds himself playing 15-20 minutes a night - and sometimes more - in a league as strong and established as the Swiss NL, he’s going to be getting the attention of the NHL community one way or another. Throw in his righty shot and offensive inclination as an adept-skating, transitional defenseman, and that player will rarely be seen as anything other than a top 90 option in the draft. His rise to notoriety is something we at McKeen’s followed with an asterisk already last season, when his club played in the Swiss SL (editor’s note: where Brennan Othmann and Mason McTavish were busy cutting their teeth while the OHL was shut down several seasons back) and the 17-year-old quietly, yet impressively, put up 1-10-11 numbers accompanied by a +16 over a 27-game span. He was then naturally part of Austria’s WJC outfit this past summer and chipped in nicely with two assists and an even +/- rating over four contests, which isn’t easy in light of the herculean task that his nation faces at the WJC.
We certainly deemed that all to be quite impressive for the consistently improving youngster, but he’s now busy statistically blowing his first pro year out of the water. With 26 games of NL action under his belt this fall, he’s already collected 2-11-13 and a +9 rating. We don’t want to overload the young man with expectations, but even Roman Josi only went 2-6-8 in 35 NL games the season he was drafted, so what Reinbacher’s doing just now could end up having some historic significance. The naked eye will see a young player with some refreshing traits but leave you with enough doubts of a future outcome if you forget to factor his age and what level he’s playing at into your assessment. What we have little doubt about is that he is active and adept at getting the puck to the net quickly from the blueline, doing so in a manner that allows us to believe he'll be effective in this area as his career progresses.
What we like here is that Reinbacher keeps track of the corner play, readily presenting the blade of his stick for a pass on his off side. Once getting and accepting the pass, there’s little time wasted in twisting, pushing off with his right skate, and unloading a minimal slapshot that doesn’t take any shortcuts in maximizing the given angle. Likely a set play of sorts, the shot is also perfectly timed with the traffic his teammate is creating while clearly being lasered past the opposition defenseman to hit the mark for a solid goal from the blueline.
The goal seen here only goes to verify that this type of puck receival and quick motion to get the puck to the goal is part of his package and a trait a team drafting him can reckon with moving forward. Again, his puck receival is quickly turned into a torpedo towards the net.
In addition to blueline shot prowess, Reinbacher is going to have to make his mark as a transition defenseman and the skating he displays can be choppy at times, with a lack of bent-knee acceleration or the kind of crossovers that scream of top-flight skating. He generally still looks like a teenager at the tail end of puberty and well, that’s exactly what he is. As such, this department will likely improve with strength and maturity.
Still, as this video shortly indicates, Reinbacher shows no qualms about making moves in his own zone to gain more space and then quickly move the puck to an open teammate. Not every pass is hitting its mark, but he’s looking to be accurate and deadly with just about any breakout situation he faces. When things work out, he’s usually set up his team for a grade A attack.
Typical of a young player, much less a defenseman his age, is finding the balance between an up-tempo effort and overcompensating for things that may not be going ideally. Reinbacher displays periods of overzealousness in his play, bringing himself out of position. In the short highlight here, we see how there’s a possible misunderstanding in what Austria’s goalie is doing with the puck behind the net, with Reinbacher having thought it would be left for him. Possibly frustrated at the moment, he puts on the jets to follow both the puck and now the opponent, who has gained a clear advantageous step in puck retrieval due to the goalie’s last second decision. Instead of accepting what had taken place and concentrating solely on his defensive duty of now keeping himself between the opponent and his own goal, here needing to be ready to use his body along the board, he still tries to outrace his opponent, who puts on the brakes, leaving Reinbacher out to hang, now gaining a clear path back to the goal. This kind of thing can be remedied with coaching and routine, but he’s far from refined in the defensive aspects of his position.
With a defenseman this age in a top men’s league, we can’t help but pay attention to how he handles the rough stuff. He’s going to have a target on his back in the corners and we need to give you a spoiler alert now, because he’s had to tough it out as the victim of a number of heavy hits.
Here there was little he seemed able to do as he cut behind the net and got clobbered by the second forechecker, who effectively sent him flying while separating him from the puck deep in his own zone. A more mature player would be finding ways to avoid that whole scenario.
This scene is one that has been typical of the kind of pressure he’s had to face in Switzerland’s top leagues. With an opposition forward oncoming, he can do little but make sure the puck keeps moving along but pays the heavy physical price for that in the process. He’s been doing his fair share of just that.
Fortunately, he can give what he can take. He’s ready and willing to smear guys along the boards in taking them out of the play or separating them from the puck.
This certainly applies for plays deep in his zone and behind the net as well. This scene was from the recent Deutschland Cup, where he spent 3 games showing little fear in competing for his nation’s men’s team, collecting an assist and +1 in the process.
His journey is ongoing this season, but he’s doing nothing building upon a prospect status that should be seeing him rise bit by bit on the interest list of NHL teams. To be where he’s at - at this tender age no less - isn’t an everyday occurrence and if he already had the body he’ll surely have at the age of 23, there’s little reason to think he’d not be a top-5 defenseman in Switzerland’s top league. We’re definitely seeing him as a player who’d be garnering second round consideration if the draft were held today.