BUFFALO – Slick center Sam Reinhart has no problem saying it. The top Sabres prospect, the No. 2 overall pick last month, wants to crack the NHL immediately next season.
“In my mind, I’m thinking if I come and play the way I’m capable of playing, I feel confident I can earn a spot and make an impact next year,” Reinhart said this afternoon following the opening session of development camp inside the First Niagara Center, his first public on-ice appearance with the Sabres.
First things first, though. Reinhart respects the process of earning a spot. The 18-year-old knows he must improve before training camp. This week’s camp offers an opportunity to showcase his talents and develop in a deep prospect pool.
Reinhart’s one of seven Sabres first-round picks skating this week.
“I think as a young guy coming into the league you have to get bigger and stronger and adapt to the pace,” Reinhart said. “Out here, this is a different level than junior. The National League will be even a different level. It gives you a sense of comfort and confidence going into training camp.”
The three-year, entry-level contract Reinhart signed Saturday offers him some comfort.
“At the end of the day, it’s one step closer to my ultimate goal, and my goal is to be here next year and to make an impact,” he said. “So it makes me feel more comfortable and gives me some confidence out there. It doesn’t change anything at the end of the day. If I’m going to continue to work and prepare for what comes ahead, I know I’ll be fine.”
A crowd of perhaps several hundred fans watched Reinhart and 40 other youngsters.
For Reinhart, settling down at camp’s nice after a whirlwind couple of months prior to the draft.
“It was a thrill to get it over with and finally get here,” he said. “It’s a lot more comforting knowing all that’s over and you can really get down to business and enjoy the week.”