Not many players who are ninth round picks in the previous year’s bantam draft get into 60-plus games in their 16-year-old season.
It’s not that undrafted or players drafted in lower rounds do not have impactful WHL careers. It’s just that they are not normally granted the opportunity to play so much at such a young age.
Brandon Wheat Kings left wing Cole Reinhardt, who was taken in the ninth round of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, played in 61 games as a 16-year-old in 2016-17. In those games, he scored three times and potted four assists for seven points.
He even played two playoff games for Brandon, who fell in a four-game sweep to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Reinhardt looks back at that lone rookie campaign and feels that it has helped him immensely this year. “I think it definitely made a difference coming into this year,” Reinhardt said.
As for the two playoff games, where he matched up against the high-powered Central Division champion Tigers. “It’s definitely way faster. Everyone is there to make a difference. Everyone is there to win and battle.”
After playing against the speed and shooting abilities of Tigers like Chad Butcher, Mason Shaw, Max Gerlach, Steven Owre, Matt Bradley and more, Reinhardt knew what he needed to work on in the off-season.
“I worked on my foot speed, overall power and strength and my hands and shot.”
Reinhardt’s work paid off as he has already set career highs in goals (11) and assists (seven). His 18 points put him 10th on the team. He also has 80 shots in his 49 games. He feels like he’s gotten better as the year has gone on.
“There is a lot more confidence in my game and I am shooting more.”
He has apparently gotten the notice of NHL scouts as well. In the midterm rankings recently put out by Central Scouting, he was ranked 164th among North American skaters. Reinhardt does not put much notice into his recent ranking.
“I’ve thought about it a little bit, but honestly it doesn’t mean much at this point.”
His role on the team changed recently with Tanner Kaspick being traded away.
“I’ve definitely had to step up a little bit. Our road trip was hard but a lot of young guys need to step up.”
His Wheat Kings are caught in a downward spiral recently, dropping 10 of their last 11 games. Included in this was a road trip through the U.S. Division, where Brandon dropped all five games. Reinhardt knows that his young team has been in most of those games, but expects himself to play a bigger role.
“I’m pretty happy with myself so far this year but there is a lot more that I can come can do.”
Brandon still seems destined for the playoffs and after his small taste last year, Reinhardt wants do more then as well.
“I hope to be top contributor in the playoffs and come up big for my team.”
With Kaspick plying his trade elsewhere, there is room for young players like Reinhardt to increase their production. If he is able to turn it on in the later stages of the 2017-18 season, scouts will start noticing him even more.
After getting into so many games last year, Reinhardt has another chance to make his mark this year. He seems primed to make the most of it.