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Reinhart looks to emerge as Draft's marquee blueliner

by Ryan Frankson / Edmonton Oilers
Pittsburgh, PA – The 2012 NHL Entry Draft has been classified by many hockey experts as the year of the defenceman, with a multitude of highly-touted, highly-skilled rearguards ranking among the top available players in this year's draft pool.

Edmonton Oil Kings blueliner Griffin Reinhart is right there in the talent mix, holding down the number 10 spot in NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings heading into the Draft  this Friday and Saturday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Reinhart is one of eight defenceman ranked among Central Scouting's top 12 skaters in North America, providing teams with plenty of options to bolster their back end.

The 18-year-old Vancouver native was one of 13 draft-eligible players — one of seven defencemen — invited to participate in the Top Prospects Media Availability on Thursday, which took place aboard the Gateway Clipper Fleet's Empress river boat in downtown Pittsburgh. He talked about the diverse crop of rearguards during the Q-and-A session.

"Every one of the d-men who are ranked so high in this draft are bringing a different element to the table," said Reinhart, the son of another accomplished blueliner, NHL veteran Paul Reinhart, who played 648 games with the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. "Whatever the team wants and whoever they think is going to have the best career overall, they're going to take them. It varies from team to team."

So what does Reinhart offer to NHL squads that they cannot obtain by selecting one of the other top-ranked defencemen, such as Ryan Murray, Morgan Reilly or Cody Ceci, among others?

"I think they get a little bit of everything from all the D (available), and the thing that I've got is the height that most of them don't have yet," the hulking 6-foot-4, 206-pounder said. "Maybe they're still growing, but I think that's an advantage to me right now."

Reinhart certainly didn't hide the fact that he'd love to follow in the footsteps of his Oil Kings teammates and previous year's Oilers draft picks Travis Ewanyk, Kristians Pelss and Martin Gernat, and get selected to the same NHL city in which he competes at the major junior level.

"It's a lot of fun playing in the Oilers rink and being a part of the Oil Kings, and it'd be a great opportunity for me to play there," Reinhart said. "I'm familiar with everything in Edmonton, but at the same time, whoever I go to I'll be happy there as well."

The Oilers have expressed interest in Reinhart, who said he has built a positive relationship with the team's President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe, whose son Keegan also plays defence for the Oil Kings.

"Kevin makes great steak, so I was over there a lot for dinner," Reinhart laughed. "I have a lot of fun playing with Keegan. I'm pretty good friends with him. After I met with (the Oilers) at the (Scouting) Combine, they came to Vancouver and I flew to Edmonton to get some tests done. I've talked to them a little bit, but I can't tell you what's going to happen."

Reinhart will have to wait until this weekend to find out which NHL organization he'll be a part of, but one thing he does know is that this week spent in Pittsburgh is another big step on his journey towards becoming an every-day NHL player.

"It's been a lot of fun and I'm really trying to enjoy it all," he said. "It's going to be a good experience, and I'll be prouder the higher I went. But at the same time it's not about that; after your draft year it's about trying to find a job with that team and being the best you can be."
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