If his current competitor and future teammate Ryan Chesley was a right-handed defenceman who compensated for his lack of height with impressive girth, Sam Rinzel is the polar opposite. The tall blue-liner may at this point lack some muscle mass but has other traits which if you put them together should excite fans and executives of many an NHL team.
Birthplace: Chanhassen, Minnesota
Date of birth: June 25, 2004
Weight: 181 lbs.
Team: Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
A late riser, Rinzel first caught the eyes of the scouting community after dominating on the high school level with Chaska. He then transitioned into a leading role with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks, while committing to play his college hockey for the Golden Gophers. While this means that he will get to return back home from his current rumspringa in Iowa, he still has to wait one more season before potentially lighting it up in the college dorms. Just like a few previous Montreal Canadiens draft picks from the United States high school system, Rinzel isn’t college eligible until a year post-draft.
When he finally arrives at the University of Minnesota, he will in all probability cross paths with the aforementioned Chesley. However, that will not be his first time sharing locker rooms with a US National Team Development Program graduate and fellow first-round hopeful in this year’s class. In 2019-20, powerful winger and overall snuggle bug Jimmy Snuggerud was lighting it up for Chaska High before getting snatched up by the USNTDP.
There is a lot to like about the tools at Rinzel’s disposal. While Chesley is considered to be a solid defender who is tremendous at shutting down opposing attacks, Rinzel’s game is built more on prowess with the puck. Apart from his straight-line skating, he is both a comfortable puck mover and a technically gifted shooter.
He can at times get too comfortable when in possession, but utilizing equal parts deception and flair, he manages to solve potential difficulties more often than not. Whether he will get into trouble at more difficult stages in his career remains to be seen, but at the high school and USHL levels, it makes him stand out as an exciting player.
Being an above-average skater he has, at times, been forced to demonstrate his pace after getting caught out of position defensively. If Rinzel could copy something from Chesley’s style of play, I would ask for the latter’s defensive instincts as well as knowing where to position yourself to adequately shut down lanes.
Elite Prospects: #32
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #31
NHL Central Scouting: #19 (North American Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #50
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #52
In Bob McKenzie’s final draft ranking, Rinzel made one of the biggest leaps between mid-season and now, moving up from 47 to 31. Since the enlightened Bobby Margarita’s rankings are based on the opinions of a few scouts around the league, this — albeit small — sample size carries at least some weight in regards to how NHL teams will view the players come draft day. With Rinzel rising on scouts' personal rankings, one can assume he has done the same on quite a few boards inside the war rooms as well.
Even doubters in the draft analyst community, like The Athletic’s dynamic duo Pronman and Wheeler, like his tools and agree that the Waterloo Black Hawk could have ended up better ranked if his sample size was larger. Pronman wishes that the blue-liner was more consistent in his game, while Wheeler thinks the Chanhassen native is still just scratching the surface of his potential.
We’ve previously seen how players with certain question marks heading into the draft process, like Habs prospect Sean Farrell, benefit mightily from another year in the USHL before heading off to college. In Farrell’s case, it wasn’t an age thing but Covid shutting down his college conference for a season that made him stay with the Chicago Steel.
One year later, he could look back at a historic season, being just the second player ever to break the 100-point mark while playing in the league. If Rinzel in a similar fashion can use this year as proper preparation for things to come, working on his deficiencies and continuing to bulk up, great things could be waiting near the horizon for the young defenceman.
With Montreal needing to add more right-handed blueliners in their prospect group, I would not be surprised if they end up using pick 26 or 33 on this position. If Team HuGo indeed ends up going in that direction, there is plenty to like about Sam Rinzel as a prospective selection.