Sam Reinhart, the WHL Rookie of the Year last season, will be a go-to guy for the Ice this year.
He knows it, and he knows other teams know it as well.
Sam, who wore No. 10 last season, is taking over his older brother Max’s jersey, which will keep the Reinhart name on No. 23.
Does he feel any pressure?
“Nope,” he grinned before a practice this week.
Max chose No. 23 because that’s what Paul, the Reinhart patriarch, wore during his 11-year career in the NHL in the 1980s.
Max already had first dibs when Sam came into the league last year, so the youngest of three siblings settled on No. 10.
“Lionel Messi,” said Reinhart. “I’m a huge soccer fan. I probably watch it more than I watch hockey.”
Messi is an Argentine soccer superstar who plays for Barcelona in Spain and wears No. 10.
Reinhart opened his sophomore campaign with the Ice in Edmonton last week, literally facing off against his older brother, Griffin, at a puck dropping ceremony featuring ex-NHLer Mark Messier.
Reinhart will be a significant weapon in the Ice’s offense, and the 16-year-old (17 in November) has a clear goal this year.
“Just to improve on last season,” Reinhart said. “Every year in junior hockey is so important for a player’s development and my goal is to make it to the NHL.”
Ice head coach Ryan McGill knows Reinhart had a stellar year last season, but that success means other teams will paint a target on his back.
The challenge is making sure Reinhart is put in situations with a workload where he can thrive and continue that success, said McGill.
“That’s up to us as coaches, to put him in those positions and try to help him draw from his experience last year and our coaching ability to get him through those situations,” said McGill, “because he will be the guy who has the bull’s eye on his back and he has to learn how to get through that.”