(Buffalo) David Reinbacher deserves the royal treatment, if such a thing exists in a rookie tournament played in a practice arena, in a town whose specialty is chicken wings, where the players went to the end seven hours by bus.
Still, Reinbacher and the Habs will play their first game of the rookie tournament on Friday, against the Sabres’ hopefuls. And for the occasion, Reinbacher will be placed in optimal conditions to achieve success.
The 5e overall pick in the last draft will in fact be paired with William Trudeau on the blue line. With a full season in the American League, Trudeau is the most seasoned defender among the backs that the CH invited to the tournament. The Varennes skater was a pleasant surprise for Laval last season.
“Reinbacher is young and he is learning. By putting him with Trudeau, who has experience, it can help,” explained Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle after Friday’s morning practice.
On the power play, Reinbacher practiced with what looks like the CH’s first hopeful unit. His companions were Emil Heineman, Owen Beck, Joshua Roy and Sean Farrell, possibly the Canadian’s four best offensive prospects.
Eyes will obviously be on the great Austrian due to his status as a player in the top 5 in the draft. That includes the coaches’ eyes. At the start of training, Reinbacher was treated to a long personalized explanation from Kelly Buchberger, one of Houle’s assistants.
“He’s here to show off,” Houle recalled. Every player wants to play in the NHL when they leave. If he can cause a surprise, he will. Otherwise, he will return to Europe. »
Coaches like to say that training camps are a time to experiment, but those experiments aren’t purely random. Thus, Heineman, Beck and Roy will also form a 5 against 5 trio. The first, by his age (21 years) and his size (6 ft 2, 202 lbs) and his success in Laval at the end of the season (7 goals in 11 games) is possibly the closest forward to the NHL in the Montreal delegation sent to Buffalo. “He played pro two years in Europe. Guys like that should come out here,” said Houle.
Beck already had a taste of the NHL last year, for one game, and Roy has just completed a successful junior career. “Two super good players,” summed up Roy, regarding his linemates.
Conversely, the most distant draft picks Florian Xhekaj and Jared Davidson were paired with John Parker-Jones, a colossus who shared his time between Laval and Trois-Rivières last year.
For this first match, Houle will entrust the net to Jakub Dobes, a Czech goalkeeper who will make his professional debut this season after two successful seasons at Ohio State, in the NCAA.
Reinbacher will not be the only CH defender to experience his baptism of rookie tournaments. This will also be the case for Logan Mailloux.
The tall 20-year-old defender will form a tandem with Christopher Ortiz, a newcomer to the organization.
If Mailloux’s offensive potential has never been in doubt, his defensive game must be refined. As he himself admitted Thursday, before leaving for Buffalo, “you can’t play in the National League if you don’t know how to defend. » Except that Houle does not intend to confine his players to a rigid structure either.
“For the rookie tournament, we let the guys go. We don’t want to give too much structure, we want them to have fun, to show what they can do. We try not to give them too much,” explained Houle.
Finally, defender Jayden Struble will not participate in the match. A “little glitch”, in Houle’s words, prevented him from taking the bus with his teammates on Thursday. Houle, however, indicated that Struble was on his way to Buffalo, expected to arrive there Friday evening and play Saturday afternoon.
Expected formation of the Canadian Friday evening