The Montreal Canadiens drafted David Reinbacher with the fifth overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
The big, right shooting defenseman with two-way abilities had been playing pro in Switzerland, and it seems like the best place for him next season would be to return there. Reinbacher will turn 19 shortly after the season begins, and it would make sense to let the teenager continue to develop before thrusting him into the bright lights of the Bell Centre.
We have seen the Habs end up with regret after rushing young players to the NHL level recently. That is especially true when it comes to high draft picks.
Alex Galchenyuk made the NHL team after being drafted third overall but never developed into the first line center the team envisioned. Jesperi Kotkaniemi was similar and never reached the heights the team expected, and was actually allowed to leave for first and second round picks at the age of 21.
Even last season, Juraj Slafkovky was taken first overall though he was not guaranteed a roster spot right away. He showed a few flashes in training camp, like Galchenyuk and Kotkaniemi before him, and the team kept him on the NHL roster all season.
Slafkovsky struggled, scoring four goals and ten points in 39 games and was injured for half the season. He took his fair share of big hits as he adjusted to the NHL game, perhaps used to being able to get away with being in vulnerable positions in other pro leagues as his 6’3″ frame was able to absorb the contact.
We will have to wait and see how an underwhelming rookie season affects Slafkovsky’s development, but it would not be odd to be concerned at his point. At least spooked enough that the team should be sending Reinbacher back to a different league to develop pretty much no matter what happens in training camp.
However, the team very much left the door open for Reinbacher to make the team. When meeting with the media at the team’s annual golf tournament earlier this week, executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton said Reinbacher is more than likely going back to Europe but, “let’s see what happens in camp.”
While it is just a comment made after being asked the question at a golf tournament, it does reveal the team is going to use training camp to determine where Reinbacher plays in 2023-24.
As we have seen in the past, top draft picks can look good in training camp, but it does not mean they are ready for 82 NHL games over the next six months. It is a long season, and teams are not even icing anything near an actual NHL lineup in the preseason. So, to determine whether a teenager is ready for a full season in the NHL based on a handful of exhibition games is not ideal.
It has backfired on the Habs in the past, so let’s hope they do not get excited about Reinbacher’s ability to shut down the Toronto Marlies players and keep him in the NHL.
The best thing for his development would be to play another season in Switzerland where he gets pro experience against good competition. You would rather he go back to Switzerland and prove he is probably NHL ready rather than staying in Montreal and showing he definitely is not.
Hopefully the Canadiens go the patience route and ensure Reinbacher is ready for the NHL in 2024-25.
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