The St. Louis Blues have a lot of defensive depth. One particular prospect might have been better served staying in school.
When the St. Louis Blues signed Mitch Reinke in the spring of 2018, it seemed like a no-lose scenario. Reinke was an undrafted free agent, so if he panned out as a solid prospect, the Blues got a good deal and if not, they weren’t spending a lot of money or a draft pick.
However, the young career of Reinke has been somewhat up and down. He came out like a house on fire and seemed to regress in year two.
Mere days after signing for the Blues in 2018, Reinke was awarded his first NHL game. St. Louis ended up missing the playoffs, but that was not known for sure at the time.
Reinke’s only game was against the Arizona Coyotes. The Blues won that contest 6-0.
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The following season, Reinke looked like he was going to be a steal. He was named to the AHL all-rookie team in 2018-19 after scoring 12 goals and 33 assists.
Those kinds of totals pushed his name into consideration for NHL playing time. It also earned him a spot on the Black Aces during the 2019 playoff run and the ability to be on the ice when the Blues hoisted the Stanley Cup.
Unfortunately, the following season was not nearly as successful. Granted it was shortened by the pandemic, but Reinke only recorded five goals and 22 points in 46 games.
Maybe his totals would have come close if all 70-plus games had been played, but we’ll never know. We do know he was off his pace.
So, it begs the question whether he would have been better served by staying in college another season or two. The argument is that he had accomplished all he was going to at Michigan Tech.
The counter to that is that you can always learn better habits to be more consistent. Without the proof of a full second season, we do not know that Reinke’s 45 points in his rookie pro season was not a flash in the pan.
If he had stayed in school one more year, might he have actually been drafted? If you make the league, it doesn’t matter if you’re drafted or a free agent, but getting selected on draft weekend makes a team put more stock in your future as opposed to just getting a couple one-year deals.
The talent is there for Reinke. He proved it in that first season with the San Antonio Rampage.
The Blues seem to have faith in him or they would not continue to give him another contract.
However, the thing he has going against him now is that the Blues are flush with offensive defenders. Reinke needs to showcase more defensive skill if he is to break into the NHL roster once again.
If not, he’ll be relegated to another season in the AHL. While plenty of guys would take that, you still have to wonder if a little more seasoning in college might have put him over the hump.