I wanted to wait until the dust settled on the offseason activity before really deciding to dig into Montreal’s pick of David Reinbacher at fifth overall over some forwards on the board. It’s a decision I wasn’t exactly shocked by and I’m not convinced it was the wrong one either.
First, I’ll say this much. If it was me making the call, with the information that was out there, I still would have taken the swing on Matvei Michkov. Yes, another undersized offensively dynamic but defensively allergic winger isn’t necessarily the perfect fit on this roster but there’s a defined need for scoring and Michkov will eventually fill that hole (but on Philadelphia now). But I also recognize that there’s a lot more information than what was out there publicly that could certainly influence Montreal’s decision-making here.
Back to Reinbacher. While this selection may have stunned many, it was the one I was expecting all along. I thought they might trade down to the seventh pick with the Flyers but based on Arizona going off the board to grab another defender at six, it’s reasonable to think there was a good chance that Reinbacher wouldn’t have been there in that scenario. I was fully ready to make the argument for Reinbacher in our mock draft but when Michkov went off the board to San Jose there, that was the end of that scenario.
Why was I expecting the pick? I felt that management would shy away from the risks with Michkov which would have left them with a choice between Reinbacher and wingers Ryan Leonard and Zach Benson; Dalibor Dvorsky was the next-best centre but would have been a real reach at number five.
We throw the abbreviation BPA around plenty at draft time, Best Player Available. I want to change one of those letters and go from P to V. V represents Value. What is the more valuable asset? A right-shot defender with potential top-pairing upside or a top-six winger? Given the relative scarcity of right-shot blueliners that could play on a top pairing down the road, it’s Reinbacher by a sizable margin.
It’s the same strategy I think they used last year. Unconvinced about top-line upside for Shane Wright and Logan Cooley, the Habs opted for Juraj Slafkovsky with the belief that a true power forward is harder to come by than a second-line centre. They’re probably right about that notion, even if you disagree with the pick. (Simon Nemec looks better today but realistically, he wasn’t under consideration if you think back to the discussion of this time a year ago; it was a three-horse race.)
Reinbacher may very well be the final piece of Montreal’s long-term defensive puzzle. Justin Barron isn’t a true top-pairing player and while Logan Mailloux’s raw upside gives him an outside shot at getting to that level, the likelier scenario is that his defensive shortcomings limit him to being more of a role player who sees a lot of power play time. They don’t really have any other righties in the system with legitimate NHL upside while moving a lefty to his off-side isn’t desirable.
He could be the complementary piece to Lane Hutson if Hutson is able to make a big impact in the NHL. Reinbacher could fit with Kaiden Guhle on a mobile shutdown pairing. He even fits with Mike Matheson who will still be on the roster by the time Reinbacher makes it to the NHL. If Adam Engstrom makes it in a couple of years, I see a good fit for that potential pairing as well. Simply put, Reinbacher checks a lot of boxes and could (it’s way too early to say will) fill one of the hardest-to-fill roles in the NHL, that of a top-pairing right-shot player.
Is Reinbacher a number one blueliner in the making? I don’t think so. I feel there’s some room for offensive improvement which could move him from a second-pairing player to a legitimate number two option but true number one defenders are all-around threats and Reinbacher might not get to that level on the offensive side of things. But make no mistake, that’s still a foundational piece for a franchise and if you’re getting a foundational piece at five, you’re going to come out of the draft just fine.
Is this the right pick for the Habs? It’s way too early to tell. But I expect Reinbacher to have a very long and successful NHL career in a role that is always in high demand and low supply. One way or the other, I expect Montreal to get good value on this selection, even if he wasn’t necessarily the best player available.