Last summer, the Colorado Avalanche struck gold when they signed Ty Lewis to an entry level contract after bringing the undrafted forward in for a tryout. This summer, the Avs have gone back to Brandon in the hopes of hitting the jackpot one more time as they have invited Wheat Kings left-winger Cole Reinhardt to their 2018 rookie camp.
Lewis went on to have an incredible season, leading his team with 100 points in 70 games during what is likely to be his final WHL season.
Now it’s his teammate, Cole Reinhardt that will be hoping to impress the Avalanche front office enough to earn a contract.
He was passed over in June’s NHL entry draft - something that isn’t overly surprising given that Reinhardt didn’t have the most impressive offensive numbers this season. His 19 goals and 34 points won’t jump off the page, but it’s important to remember that points are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to evaluating a 17-year old in the WHL.
Reinhardt was taken in the ninth round of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, he then went on to play in 61 games as a 16-year-old in 2016-17. Though he only scored three times, the WHL is a league dominated by 19-20 year olds, so the simple fact that he played that many games as a 16-year old is a huge accomplishment.
After spending last summer working on his foot speed and overall strength, Reinhardt hoped to play a much bigger role with the Wheat Kings. It didn’t start off that way as he was buried behind some very strong forwards. That all changed when Brandon traded Tanner Kaspick to the Victoria Royals.
Reinhardt was put on a more offensively minded line alongside newcomer Luka Burzan and former first overall pick Stelio Matteos, a move that saw his production take off. Thirteen of his 34 points came in the final 14 games of the regular season. Given more opportunity, Reinhardt was able to take advantage and show the kind of production he is capable of.
At 6’1 and nearly 190lbs, Reinhardt plays a power forward style of game. While he got stronger after his rookie season, he’s a kid that only turned 18 this past spring, so there is a ton of physical maturation still to come.
Reinhardt was a decent middle-6 forward on a below average Brandon team. Next season, as the Wheat Kings look to become more of a contender, he will be asked to play a much bigger role. He got stronger as the season went on and has shown the growth you want to see out of a young prospect.
After showing a lot of season-to-season growth last year, Reinhardt is a kid that works hard on his game and is determined to make it to the next level - even if he was passed over in his first year of draft eligibility.
With the graduation of Ty Lewis to the Colorado Eagles, a spot is open on Brandon’s top scoring line. Reinhardt should be given every opportunity to fill the role and if he takes advantage of it, we could see a huge jump in production during his 18-year old season.
The Avalanche will have to make a decision on Reinhardt quickly. Given his age, if he doesn’t sign an ELC before the start of the WHL season, he will go back into the NHL Entry Draft next summer.
Like Lewis, Reinhardt is a player that was drafted into the WHL by current Avalanche scout Wade Klippenstein who was the Director of Scouting for the Wheat Kings at the time. That familiarity with the player and his development curve gives the Avs an advantage when it comes to evaluating him as a pro prospect.
Hopefully, he impresses the way his teammate did last summer and the Avalanche take the gamble of offering him a contract. Even if they don’t he’s a guy Avalanche fans are going to want to keep an eye on as the 2018-19 season gets under way.