Jan 15, 2014 - 06:13 MST
Written By: Watts, Jesse

Paul Reinhart has coached all three of his sons – Max, Griffin and Sam – at points during their minor hockey careers.  He has also seen all three go on to become impact players in the Western Hockey League.

Now, the former NHL star has one more chance to play bench boss to one of his offspring as an assistant coach with Team Cherry for the 2014 BMO CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday night at the Saddledome in Calgary where he spent five seasons playing with the Calgary Flames.

The son he’ll be coaching is 18-year-old Sam of the Kootenay Ice, who also happens to be one of the top prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft.

“It’s special, and I was thrilled to get the opportunity to be here,” said Reinhart, who played 11 seasons in the NHL with the Flames and the Vancouver Canucks.  “Like every parent, you’re a coach-in-waiting every time you’re in the stands, and I was fortunate to have coached all three boys through their minor hockey careers.”

Eldest son Max played four seasons in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice, including winning a WHL Championship alongside a then-15-year-old Sam in 2011, and was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NHL draft by the Flames.

Griffin, the second-oldest son, is in his fourth season in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings, and also owns a WHL Championship ring from 2012.  Two years ago, Griffin played in the Top Prospects Game in Kelowna before being selected fourth overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Now, Sam’s turn has arrived.  Considered one of the top prospects in the CHL, ranked fourth among all North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in their mid-term rankings, Sam is considered a sure bet as a top-10 pick in the NHL Draft in June.

“He’s a winner, first and foremost,” said Reinhart about his youngest son, who recently played for Team Canada alongside brother Griffin at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Sweden.  “He will win, there is no doubt about that.  He’ll win as an individual, and he’ll win as a teammate.

“He’s the kind of player who you can build a team around,” he said.

A highly skilled center with excellent skating ability, terrific vision and a tremendous work ethic, Sam has already established himself as a star in the WHL.  The Ice captain has been a leader at every level he’s played at, including captaining Canada’s Under-18 team to Gold medals at the 2012 Memorial for Ivan Hlinka tournament and the 2013 Under-18 World Championship. 

Getting an invite to the BMO CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game and being named Team Cherry captain is just another feather in the cap for the youngest Reinhart brother. 

“It’s exciting to be here, and getting to play alongside the best prospects from the CHL,” said Sam, who has 18 goals and 53 points in 34 games for the Ice this season.  “It’s another honor (to be captain), considering there are so many great players here.”

And what does Sam think about having dad behind the bench for one of CHL’s marquee events?

“It’ll definitely be fun,” he said.  “This goes back a long ways to minor hockey, so it’s something I’m looking forward to, for sure.”

While he knows dad will be behind the bench for the big game, Sam also had the good fortune of being able to tap his older sibling, Griffin, for a glimpse of what to expect in the contest.

“I definitely learned a lot from him,” he said.  “It’s not so much having talked to him about it, but getting to watch him play in the game that helped me learn a bit about what to expect.”

Having three boys make their way through the Western Hockey League, Paul has seen how they’ve developed and grown playing in one of the world’s top development Leagues.  Though he acknowledged there are other options out there for up-and-coming hockey talents, he knows the decision that led all three of his sons to the WHL was the right one.

“It was the right option for our guys,” said Paul.  “For those kids who are playing in the CHL and who don’t have the opportunity to move forward in professional hockey, they have a still getting a great education package and are setting themselves up well for their next chapter in life, if they are willing to put the work in.

“The CHL has been a wonderful experience for our guys, and there have been no regrets,” he said.

For more on the 2014 BMO CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game, visit www.bmotopprospects.ca