The Habs went into the opening round of Wednesday’s draft with the fifth selection. While there was plenty of speculation that they might trade down, they didn’t and instead selected defenceman David Reinbacher out of the Swiss league. He ties former Hab Thomas Vanek as the highest-drafted Austrian player in NHL history.
DOB: October 25, 2004
Weight: 187 lbs
Elite Prospects: 9
Future Considerations: 10
Daily Faceoff: 8
The Hockey News: 9
TSN (Bob McKenzie): 20
TSN (Craig Button): 20
NHL Central Scouting (Intl): 5
Recruit Scouting: 11
Dobber Prospects: 16
Draft Prospects Hockey: 16
Smaht Scouting: 20
Elite Prospects: His game rests on a projectable, rock solid defensive foundation. As opponents attack through the neutral zone, he gaps up early, builds speed going backward to match that of the puck carrier, takes away the middle of the ice with his stick, and closes with force once he’s registered support. When it comes to Reinbacher, you’re looking at a contemporary defensive defenceman that can move the puck with the potential to develop into a secondary scorer from the offensive blue line. That makes him one of the best defencemen in this draft.
DraftPro Hockey: A smooth skating, intelligent defenseman with shutdown qualities. Skates with long strides that help him get back quickly defensively or win races to loose pucks. Uses crossovers to accelerate while carrying the puck out of his end. An efficient puck carrier despite average handling skills. His top hand stays glued to his hip not allowing for a full range of motion in his puck handling. Loves to frequently join the rush and fill in the gaps on rush chances. Good lateral mobility to work himself into shooting lanes along the blueline.
Recrutes: “The combination of the progression he’s made, and what he has done in that league at his age is hard to do, so it eases the translation questions for me,” said one scout. “For him to be able to do that in a men’s league at 18 years old on a big surface, a fairly fast league, and they used him in a lot of situations. That was pretty impressive. Is he the next Moritz Seider? I don’t think he has the same offensive attributes or natural edge but there are some parallels.
Jason Bukala, Sportsnet: Highly coveted right shot defenceman who has the skill set to be deployed in a variety of roles. Brings size and skill. Active taking away time and space with his reach and stature. Jumps to the half wall to kill plays on the PK. Times his gaps well when defending his blue line.
Like any young player he has room to improve his angling and recoveries when pucks spill down the boards following a battle. Leans distributor more than shooter on the PP, but has a rocket from distance that he gets away quickly and accurately. Thinks the game very well. NHL top pairing defenceman in time.
Future Considerations: Reinbacher is a big, right-handed two-way defenseman with strong skating ability and the potential to become a top pairing defenseman in the NHL. Reinbacher is a complete two-way defenseman who competes hard at both ends of the ice, although his puck skills are not elite and he mishandles the puck or executes a bad pass on occasion. Nonetheless, he possesses many above-average tools, including strong gap control and a strong shot. If a team believes he will develop into a No. 1 defenseman, he may go well above his draft projection.
Scott Wheeler, The Athletic: He looks to take instead of give in the neutral zone, regularly stepping up to try to bump puck carriers off possession and force dumps (though there are times when that style can leave him chasing if his timing’s off or he’s flatfooted). He’s strong. His head is always up and on a swivel and he does a good job pre-surveying the ice when he’s going back to get pucks through frequent shoulder checks. He’s got some poise and processing under pressure, even if his play with the puck on his stick isn’t dynamic per se. He’s just a rock-solid, projectable two-way defenceman. I’m not sure he’s got the skill to become a true No. 1, but he’s got everything needed to become a good top-four guy and maybe more than that.
HockeyProspect.com: Reinbacher fits a pretty unique mold in this year’s crop. He’s not as athletic as Owen PIckering, he hasn’t shown the same level of offensive flashes as Moritz Seider in his draft year, and he’s not as powerful or as mean as Lian Bichsel, but he still possesses a useful and well rounded skill set that gives him versatility. He’s not a dynamic puck handler, and his puck handling execution rates overall don’t come close to matching other defenseman at the top of this draft like Simashev, Pellikka or Willander but they went from being a limiting factor to at least average. His offensive instincts are typically streamlined, which is fine, but the dynamic play driving qualities from the backend that we see in Simashev aren’t present here. So we feel there is more of a limiting factor to Reinbacher than his numbers suggest, as previously stated.
FloHockey: The top defenseman in the draft has all the hallmark traits of a top-four blueliner. At 6-foot-2, 185, he has an easily projectable frame. The Austrian-born Reinbacher also spent all of this season in Switzerland’s top professional league, playing significant minutes and scoring at a rate that is surpassed only by Roman Josi at the same age. Reinbacher is a right-shot with high-end mobility and smart puck-moving skills. He doesn’t dazzle you with skill, but he makes effective plays and can defend at a reasonably high level. In a year that is short on defensemen at the top of this draft, Reinbacher appears to have the highest upside.
McKeens: We can safely say that few players have made the rise in prospect status that Reinbacher has this season. When pucks dropped around the world to kick off the 22-23 season, few had Reinbacher on the map as a first round possibility. His skating allows him to solve a number of problems across the ice while regularly gaining a vantage point for strong breakout passes and up-ice rushes. His lateral movement and agility combined with his slick mitts allow him to do wonderful things across the blueline and regularly be an active part of the attack. At the same time, he uses his mobility to proactively suffocate attackers in the neutral zone while athletically breaking up bevies of cross-ice passes. His stick looks like an extension of his left arm and he’s constantly looking to make use of angles to his advantage.
Last Word On Hockey: He focuses more on what he needs to do, as a defender, to prevent the opposing team from generating scoring chances. He does just that. Initially, he does an excellent job against the rush. His gap control is excellent and he consistently forces plays out wide and away from the slot. Once the opposing team establishes possession, he still does an excellent job preventing plays from getting into high-danger areas.
Daily Faceoff: Not many people had Reinbacher as a first-round pick heading into the season. Now, most have Reinbacher as the best defenseman in the class. He put up excellent numbers in the top Swiss league, a division that hasn’t always been kind to younger blueliners. Reinbacher looked mature beyond his years and could immediately jump over and make an impact in the AHL next season if that ends up being the plan.
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Reinbacher is an excellent all-around defenseman. His mobility stands out immediately, especially as a 6-foot-2 right-shot defender. Reinbacher’s gap control is quite strong; he kills a lot of plays due to his feet. He can close on guys with his body too, and shows a high compete level to win back pucks. He’s very polished defensively for such a young player, and projects to shut down good NHL forwards. He’s able to both skate and pass pucks up ice. He’s got good offensive touch, showing solid hands and better vision. He’s not dynamic with the puck but showed this season at a young age he could make plays and move the puck like a pro. His sense is very good and he projects to be a power-play guy in the NHL. Reinbacher is a potential top-pair, all-situations NHL defenseman. In Reinbacher the Canadiens get a true premium defense prospect, a player with top pair potential and a chance to become a star if he really hits.
Reinbacher has another year left in his studies in Zurich and has indicated he’d like to remain there next season to finish that course which likely will keep him overseas instead of making the jump right away like Juraj Slafkovsky a year ago.
Since he isn’t being drafted out of the CHL, Reinbacher will be eligible to play in the minors right away and if Montreal convinces him to come over next season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him follow Simon Nemec and David Jiricek (the top blueliners from last draft) and become an impact player in the AHL. Even in 2024-25, he’ll be AHL-eligible, allowing him to adapt to the smaller ice surface fairly quickly.
Defencemen often need a lot of time before they become NHL-ready but that shouldn’t be the case here. Reinbacher could probably play right away on an NHL third pairing, giving him a high enough floor for Montreal to put him in their lineup quicker than a lot of players from this draft class.