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Where will North Van's Sam Reinhart be drafted this Friday?
North Vancouver's Sam Reinhart is the No. 1 ranked player in International Scouting's final report, but the young man better be prepared for a number of possibilities at this week's NHL Entry Draft.
Although Reinhart is the ISS's top-ranked player, he's second or third for many other scouts, up there in the top three with Kingston Frontenacs forward Sam Bennet and Barrie Colts defenceman Aaaron Ekblad.
Prince Albert Raiders forward Leon Draisaitl is also predicted to go in the first four – and maybe even squeak into the top three – this Friday in Philadelphia.
Reinhart, who plays his junior hockey for the WHL's Kootenay Ice, has been a rumoured top two pick for a couple of seasons now, mostly due to the undersized forward's superior mental approach to the game.
"Sam 'beats up' opponents with his mind," said TSN analyst Craig Button, in his final rankings on Monday. "Exceptional intelligence and he understands what to do, where to be and how to be highly productive both individually and for the team. Knows how to get the best out of situations."
(TSN has Reinhart ranked second overall, behind Ekblad at No. 1.)
NHL Central Scouting has Reinhart ranked third but, when you look at the teams in the mix at that position or just below, it gets tricky predicting where any of these talented youngsters will be taken.
The Florida Panthers own the No. 1 overall pick and have been very publicly open to trading it away. That could open the door for a team like the Vancouver Canucks – Reinhart's closest thing to a hometown NHL club – to trade into the top spot, or to one just below it, in the effort of snagging Sam the man.
"There is a lot of talk the Canucks are trying to move up into the first overall spot so they can draft Reinhart," writes Canucks.com blogger Tyson Giuriato, in the team's final 'On The Clock' review for 2014.
"He's got huge upside, is a natural leader and grew up on the Lower Mainland. Reinhart could be the cornerstone piece of the franchise for a long time. A Reinhart and Bo Horvat one-two punch down the middle would stabilize the centre position for many years in Vancouver."
(Of course, it's been difficult to know what new Canucks' GM Jim Benning thinks of any of this or any of these players. He says he's had discussion with Panthers GM Dale Tallon about acquiring the first overall pick, but hasn't said whether he'd take Reinhart with it or someone else.)
And what if the Edmonton Oilers, who pick third overall, are looking for a defenceman, as they very well could and should be?
Would the Oil trade up to number one, or could the teams above and just below them – Buffalo picks second, Calgary fourth, the Islanders fifth, and Vancouver sixth – jostle around for a shot at a prospect they desperately want more than the other five or six guys in the top 10?
(After Ekblad, the next highest-ranked defenceman is Red Deer Rebels pivot Haydn Fleury, a fine prospect but also one ranked outside many analysts' top 10 overall.)
"(Reinhart) has been compared to Jonathan Toews and John Tavares among many," writes Giuriato. "Reinhart and Tavares do have a lot of similarities. They both can put the puck in the net, but are both very smart players that can play anywhere on the ice and are similar in stature.
"Like Tavares, Reinhart isn't exactly the flashiest player, but gets the job done using his stick skills and hockey sense."