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Sam Reinhart, expected to be one of the top three picks, possibly No. 1, in this years NHL draft seen here at his home in North Vancouver June 16, 2014. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Sam Reinhart, expected to be one of the top three picks, possibly No. 1, in this years NHL draft seen here at his home in North Vancouver June 16, 2014. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

NHL Entry Draft

Sam Reinhart eyes No. 1, Canucks eye Reinhart Add to ...

Sam Reinhart is done with Twitter.

In this era of selfies and spectacle, Reinhart sets it aside. The 18-year-old, a potential No. 1 pick in the National Hockey League draft on Friday, never used it much anyway, and tired of people pestering him to tweet on their behalf, looking to latch on to his percolating fame.

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“It was never for me,” said Reinhart, a modest but not introverted young man who was captain of his Western Hockey League team, the Kootenay Ice, and two gold-medal-winning under-18 national teams. “There’s no benefit to having it.”

This moment, the cusp of the draft, is not one for distractions. Reinhart’s production on the ice last winter ranks alongside the likes of John Tavares and Steven Stamkos when they were 17-year-olds. Scouts celebrate Reinhart’s hockey sense, a rare intuition, his two-way play as a centre. The word “cerebral” is often used.

Brian Burke, the Calgary Flames president, quipped this month: “He’s Einstein on the ice.” ISS Hockey, a scouting service, ranks Reinhart No. 1 and has said: “Reads the play two steps ahead. He’s a game-breaker.”

As much as all boys on skates dream of being picked No. 1 – “it’d be incredible,” said Reinhart, “it’s definitely in your mind” – he knows more than most teenage players that the events of late June are of little relevance to the importance of September and October, training camp and cracking an NHL roster. His future in hockey is not defined if defenceman Aaron Ekblad or centre Sam Bennett go No. 1.

The Vancouver Canucks, picking sixth and trying to coax the Florida Panthers into a trade for the No. 1 selection, are among those believed to covet Reinhart. The Canucks need strength at centre and for so long have failed to latch on to local talent, such as Shea Weber, Milan Lucic or Brendan Gallagher in recent years.

Reinhart, 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, a sprinkle of freckles on his face, sits in the verdant backyard of his family’s West Vancouver home. The name Reinhart is poised to join the ranks of Sutters and Staals, families full of NHL players. It began with patriarch Paul Reinhart, a Flames defenceman in the 1980s in the mould of Paul Coffey who concluded his career as a Canuck in Vancouver, leading the team in scoring his final season before a bad back prematurely ended a career that would have reached the Hall of Fame, according to the likes of Cliff Fletcher.

Sam is the youngest of three sons. Max Reinhart, a centre, was drafted in the third round in 2010 by the Flames and remained in junior for two more seasons. The 22-year-old has spent most of the past two seasons in the American Hockey League, with 19 games for the Flames, one goal and four assists. Then came Griffin, 20, a defenceman drafted No. 4 by the New York Islanders in 2012; he too has spent the two seasons after his draft year in junior.

All three, as boys, began as defencemen for the Huskies at the Hollyburn Country Club, to get more ice time and work on skating. Sam moved to centre at around age 12. The lessons of defence remain at the core of his hockey thinking and it is why NHL Central Scouting, which ranks him the No. 3 North American skater, has said: “He knows where to go with the puck, even before he gets it.”

“You know what the other one is thinking,” said Reinhart of his grounding in defence. “Coming down on someone, if you’re familiar with what they’re supposed to be doing, you know what you can do to get around them.”

Reinhart has learned from his father. He has learned from his brothers. The Reinhart home was a festival of sport, official and conjured, when the boys were growing up. There was hockey and tennis and wrestling and golf. There was also rollerjam and slamball.

The games of boyhood are in the past. Reinhart, long well-versed in the rigours of media, speaks with more poise than a regular teenager.

“Everything I’ve done or I’m trying to do so far – I’ve had the benefit of watching either one of my brothers or both of them go through it,” Reinhart said. “I’ve learned that it’s not easy. The biggest thing is opportunity and what you take from that opportunity.”

The name of Nathan MacKinnon, the 2013 No. 1 pick and NHL rookie of the year, is invoked. Then, from last year’s draft, there is No. 3 pick Jonathan Drouin, who Tampa Bay sent back to junior. At No. 6, Sean Monahan made the Flames and scored 22 goals.

“Way more of it is based on opportunity than people like to believe,” said Paul Reinhart, a No. 12 pick in 1979 who went straight to the NHL, scoring 47 points as a rookie.

The question of being ready is one asked by all pro clubs, in interviews at the combine or elsewhere. Reinhart’s answer is, of course, yes. Beyond his success in junior hockey and internationally, he was called over this spring to the World Championships in Zurich by Hockey Canada, where he practised with pros.

“It’s amazing the confidence you gain from practice one to practice three,” Reinhart said. “A lot of it for a young guy coming up is confidence. I felt really comfortable with all the guys.”

As for a return to Twitter? “Probably not,” he said, smiling.

Follow on Twitter: @davidebner

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