The Buffalo Sabres have returned forward Sam Reinhart to the Kootenay Ice.

The Buffalo Sabres have returned forward Sam Reinhart to the Kootenay Ice.

The Return of Reinhart

The NHL's Buffalo Sabres have assigned forward Sam Reinhart to the Kootenay Ice

Taylor Rocca

Sam Reinhart is coming back to Cranbrook.

The Buffalo Sabres assigned the 18-year-old forward to the Kootenay Ice Friday morning.

“Getting a player back of the calibre of Sam Reinhart, Christmas has come early for our organization,” said Kootenay Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth. “We didn’t expect to get him back, but we have and we’ll do whatever we can to get him ready to play at the next level next year.

“I think it will be great for our hockey club. His leadership will be felt throughout the rest of the dressing room.”

Reinhart is not expected to be available tonight when the Ice host the Red Deer Rebels at Western Financial Place.

The Sabres made the announcement via Twitter Friday morning.

“He’s just not heavy enough. He’s not strong enough yet,” said Sabres general manager Tim Murray in a team press conference Friday. “As it went on here, it looked like he came up to the pace of the game. To me, that’s not an issue. Just by getting stronger, he’s going to get quicker and faster.

“It’s not hockey sense, it’s not skill [that is the issue]. For me, it’s strength. If he had been playing second-line minutes, we might not be having this conversation right now.

“I told him, you’re my first first-round draft pick as a GM. Obviously, I was cheering for him. But I can’t let emotion come into play in the decision. It has to be the decision that’s right for, number one, the organization, and number two, him.”

Reinhart, the second-overall selection at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, skated in nine games with the Sabres, tallying one assist.

He played his ninth game for the Sabres Thursday night, seeing the ice for eight shifts, in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins.

“Every player is different, but our main concern is what’s best for Sam,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan in a team press conference Friday.

“The consensus was, we all know his hockey intelligence, we all know he’s going to be a big, big player here down the road. Sometimes that human development happens naturally. He’s going to get stronger naturally.

“He’s a fine young man.”

As captain of the Kootenay Ice during the 2013-14 WHL season, the native of North Vancouver led the team with 105 points (36G, 69A) in 60 games.

He was named the WHL Player of the Year, in addition to being recognized as the WHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player and CHL Sportsman of the Year. The 185-pound forward was named to Canada’s Entry at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship where he posted two goals and five points in seven games.

Reinhart was also a member of Team WHL’s entry into the 2013 WHL Super Series as well as the WHL East First All-Star Team.

In 201 career WHL games, the son of former NHLer Paul Reinhart has racked up 101 goals and 153 assists, good for 254 points.

He was the first round selection (10th overall) of the Kootenay Ice at the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft.

More to come.