With two goals in two games, it’s safe to say that Sam Reinhart made an impression.
The young Kootenay Ice captain recently returned home to West Vancouver following a summer development camp in Quebec for the national junior U20 squad, which included a trio of exhibition games against Finland, Sweden and the United States in Lake Placid, NY.
Reinhart played in an exhibition game against Finland, scoring once in a 5-3 win while going up against Arturri Lehkonen, Kootenay’s second round pick in the CHL Import Draft, who also found the back of the net. The Ice captain dressed for the third and final game against the U.S., scoring Canada’s lone marker to break the shutout for American netminder Jon Gillies in a 5-1 loss.
“It was good. It’s always a good experience, at any time, to compete at that level,” said Reinhart.
“I felt like I played well in both games. Obviously, the first game against Finland, I thought I played well in that game, and with a couple days off before the States, you still gotta prepare yourself and be ready for the next one.
“By and large, it was a challenging one, but I felt like I played well.”
Reinhart and 32 other players were given the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of the coaching staff, even though one of them gets to see the young sniper on a regular basis.
Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill also attended camp as an assistant coach to Team Canada bench boss Brent Sutter, who owns the Red Deer Rebels. Benoit Groulx, who leads the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL, is the other assistant coach alongside McGill.
“Every time you’re with a bunch of new guys, when there’s someone there, especially your coach that you’re familiar with, it definitely makes things easy,” said Reinhart.
McGill had high praise for the way Reinhart showcased himself at the camp, doing so while playing on the right wing instead of his usual position at centre.
“Sam was excellent,” said McGill. “He’s such a smart player, whoever he plays with, he makes them better, and once again, I think his maturity level as a 17-year-old shows and it’s beyond his years, for sure.”
The summer camp was a break from tradition for Hockey Canada, which has gathered their U20 players and pitted them against each other in intrasquad games in years past.
However, with a shakeup at the upper levels of the Program of Excellence, things changed this year, as a new management group was brought on board.
The U.S. has been hosting the junior exhibition event for close to a decade in Lake Placid, the site of their upset over the Soviet Union and gold medal finish at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
This was Canada’s first time participating and the coaching staff liked what they saw, according to McGill.
“From Team Canada’s perspective, I think the best thing we did was go there and play games against Finland, Sweden and the U.S., because I think it’s really important to evaluate your players against different competition that you don’t know,” said McGill.
“I think you wouldn’t get the same evaluation if you split teams into two teams and they play each other.”
While Sutter, McGill and Groulx had their hands full evaluating their own team, it was also useful to see what the opposition was fielding.
“We really looked at that,” added McGill. “From a systems standpoint, it was really good to see Sweden and Finland that way.”
Training camps are beginning to open across the CHL and the first half of the season will be critical for players hoping to earn a spot on Team Canada’s roster for the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden at the end of December.
While the development camp was important for players to make an impression, their performance in the first four months of the season will also have an impact, said McGill.
“We’d like to see consistency in all of these kids’ game right from the get-go, but at the same time, I think some kids left a good impression for us to watch and some kids are really going to have to get out of the gate,” said McGill.
“It’s going to be no different. Team Canada is going to take the best players that are playing the most consistent at Christmastime. That may or may not be the same guys that were playing at training camp, and that’s okay, too.”