Has there ever been as polarizing a prospect as Griffin Reinhart?
Half the commentary I read declares him a bust, and the other half still touts his potential as somewhere between a top 4 defenseman and a top pairing monster.
Part of the commentary around “Reinhart is a bust” is the idea that he’s still in the AHL, de facto evidence of developmental failure. The idea seems to be that if you don’t make the league right away a la Aaron Ekblad, you are destined for a bottom pairing career or worse.
Is it true? I thought at the very least it might be helpful to take a quick look at the development timelines for some of the league’s current elite defensemen and see if that provides some perspective.
Rather than fuss about defining an elite defenseman, I sidestepped the issue and just pulled the top 10 D by all-situations ice time last season. It produces a list that is certainly packed with terrific D. I then pulled the post-draft developmental histories for each player. The full table of that data is at the end of this article.
What I’ll do here instead is just summarize the results:
- Only one player (Doughty) made the league in his first year. All others spent at least one year in a developmental league after being drafted.
- Only the two Swedes made the league in their second year post-draft. Most were in the AHL at that point, but at least a few were still in a developmental league.
- Most players made the league in their third year. However, a few prominent players (Josi, Weber, Keith) spent most or all of their third year post-draft in the AHL.
Based on this sample, its fair to say that defensemen do indeed develop slowly, even the elite ones.
What does this tell us about Griffin Reinhart?
The fact that he hasn’t made the league yet is NOT indicative of his potential. However, most players had made the league in their third year, and of those that didn’t, almost all were in the NHL their fourth year. So if Griffin Reinhart cannot make the still-weak Oiler roster D next year, that is not a good sign.
Time on ice data was pulled from war-on-ice. Player history was pulled from hockeydb.com.
I treated all leagues as developmental leagues except for AHL and KHL (this may unfairly classify the SEL as a developmental league). The numbers are games played.
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