Montreal is possibly the market of extremes par excellence in hockey. Some take time to learn. Others, like David Reinbacher, only needed five days to find out.
The Canadiens’ selection of Reinbacher as fifth overall sparked, shall we say, strong reactions. So vivid that under his last Instagram post, the 18-year-old defender had to turn off the comment feature. Never mind, the most intense of supporters wrote their comments under his previous posts. Generally positive comments, but some downright nasty messages were also posted there.
“We don’t want you,” wrote one of the Ph.D. students. ” Bad choice. These are garbage,” added a future Nobel laureate.
Then Sunday noon, at the Canadiens training center, a fan gave Reinbacher a book in which she collected words of encouragement for the newcomer.
“I received a very nice gift, there were beautiful messages. I’ll look at that later. It was a warm welcome. I thank them for that,” the Austrian said after the first day of Habs development camp.
The episode of negative comments obviously left its mark. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said at the outset, in a scrum in Brossard. I also received beautiful messages from supporters and I thank them, from the management as well. Now is the time to work.
“If they talk bad about me, I will work to prove them wrong. I’m happy to be here, it’s one more step in my dream, which is to play in the NHL. We have a big number ahead of us [the 25th Stanley Cup], a big Stanley Cup. It excites me. »
However, if we trust the echoes from Europe, many of them do not understand why Reinbacher’s selection is making so much noise. You don’t get it from teammates in Kloten who just want to raise their friend’s profile; it comes rather from two players who faced him this season in the Swiss national league.
Éric Gélinas is one of them. “I read that the lil’ guy got peppered. I find it so cheap, but sometimes, that’s the Montreal market. In my opinion, they drafted a dirty hockey player, “said the former Devils and Avalanche defenseman.
Gélinas faced Reinbacher once, before getting injured. But his club, SC Bern [he has since moved to HC Ajoie], faced the young Austrian later in the season, as well as in a best of three, won by the Bernese. Diagnostic ?
“In the playoffs he was their best player, it wasn’t even close,” he said.
Gélinas faced Lucas Raymond and was the blue line partner of Moritz Seider, before these two promising prospects arrived at the Red Wings. “I was not wrong with Raymond. I had the same feeling with Seider, but he was my ‟partner”, so I knew more. With Reinbacher, I have the same kind of feeling. This guy has something. »
Guillaume Asselin, he played for Ajoie last season. “I was seeing that…People who have never seen him play and say it’s the worst choice in the universe. Its potential, if it grows further, will be solid. »
For those who have seen him play or, better yet, faced him, what is it like?
“He’s not an Erik Karlsson,” he warns. He won’t pass the puck between his skates, but he’s creative nonetheless. He was playing on their second unit on the power play. But he is so young. In the QMJHL, he might have made 85 points! I think he will be a number 2 defender, and besides, he is right-handed, it is harder to find. »
Because he has a similar profile, one feels that Seider is often used as a basis of comparison to evaluate Reinbacher. But our two speakers agree: the new catch of the Canadian is not of the same style.
“It’s not the big check like Seider. Except he’s 18, so you think he’ll be soft on his stick, but he’s tough, Asselin said. You go around, he’s a dog, he gives cross-checks. At that age, it’s just going to develop over time. »
“Our game plan in the playoffs was to eat them physically, because they’re small and offensive,” added Gélinas. Our guys tested it. He was going on the puck first in the corners. Sometimes a bigger guy will manage to finish second and avoid getting hit. He wants the puck. I’m a big fan. »
In Brossard too, the comments were glowing. “A big strong defender, very smart, very hard to beat. He is very stable and can play a lot of minutes,” said another CH prospect in defense, Lane Hutson. The latter already knew Reinbacher, since the two participated in the recent World Senior Championships, and the last World Juniors.
Reinbacher will continue his apprenticeship this week. Off the ice, later on Sunday, the hopefuls were invited to the Bell Center to visit the locker room and other team facilities.
And on the ice, the young man must in particular adapt to the small ice rink, on which he has played very little, apart from a few international tournaments. “It comes faster, you have to make decisions faster,” he notes.
“It was good as the first day, it was tough, but I was ready. I want to show that I can be their man. »