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Bové: Pump the brakes on Sam Reinhart criticism

Bové: Pump the brakes on Sam Reinhart criticism
Posted at 4:33 PM, Jan 05, 2017

On Wednesday night, I, like many of you, watched in awe as Buffalo Sabres prospect Alex Nylander danced around Canadian defenders at ease. The beautiful toe-drags and passes provided a glimpse of what Nylander can do.

It also had me thinking about how fun every game against the Toronto Maple Leafs will be in the near future.

Just think -- Alex Nylander lined up against his older brother Willie Nylander, who has 26 points in 36 games for the Leafs this season.

So I tweeted this:

The comparisons sparked some interesting discussion, but I noticed some shade towards Sam Reinhart from multiple followers.

Now to be clear -- this has nothing to do with Mitch Marner, he's having a phenomenal season and is quite the talent -- but let's cool off on the Sam Reinhart criticism. Yes, he had a slow start to the season, but his game is continuously improving.

Let's look at the numbers, shall we?

Reinhart, in only his second full season, has 23 points in 37 games. Not great -- but his production has more than doubled since roommate and fellow second-overall pick Jack Eichel returned to the lineup. Coincidence? Probably not.

In Reinhart's last 16 games the 21-year-old has 13 points (4G, 9A). Not bad, especially when you consider he had only 10 points in the Sabres first 21 games (4G, 6A). For what it's worth, Eichel also has 13 points in his first 16 games (7G, 6A). 

Even with his slow start Reinhart is on pace to finish the season with 51 points, nine more than he had last season (23G, 19A, 42P).

This next stat is kind of a pie in the sky deal, but hear me out: If Reinhart played an entire season at the pace he's on currently, (since the Eichel returned) he would be on track for 67 points. I don't know about you, but 67 points sounds pretty impressive to me.

Reinhart has also improved in his own end. This year through 37 games he actually has a +1 plus/minus. Last year in 76 games he finished with a -8 plus/minus.

By no means is Reinhart perfect in the defensive zone, and plus/minus is a very flawed stat, but he is more consistent. That being said -- every once in a while Reinhart loses, or is simply out-muscled by his man, and that needs to happen less, but remember, he's still only in his second season.

Moral of the story -- Reinhart has flaws and deserves some criticism, but as we approach the halfway point of the season he's playing his best hockey in a long time, so pump the tires just a bit.