The most important thing to understand about Sam Rinzel, whom the Chicago Blackhawks selected with the No. 25 pick in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft, is that his development is going to require patience.
Virtually every scouting report available on the right-handed blue-liner from Minnesota tells a similar tale: the skill set of a future NHL defenseman is there, but it’s going to take time for those abilities to be translated to the NHL level.
The most obvious skills for Rinzel, who turned 18 on June 25, involve his size and his skating ability. He’s already 6-foot-4, which leaves plenty of room to add more size to his 181-pound frame.
Perhaps Rinzel’s brother could help with that, too. Here’s Jack Rinzel, who’s the assistant strength & conditioning coach at the University of Idaho:
Carry things in weird positions because it’s uncomfortable and difficult. That’s a good reason to do some things. 10 zercher shrugs + carry with 504. pic.twitter.com/LM2SJ3vHFa— Jack Rinzel (@JackRinzel) July 19, 2022
Wouldn’t be surprised to see Sam Rinzel crack the 200-pound mark before he ever arrives in Chicago, given those family traits.
As far as on-ice things, though, the first thing to understand about Rinzel is that, despite his size, he can skate. And it’s not just a “skates well for a big guy” backhanded compliment, either. Here’s a brief sample of what Rinzel is capable of doing on the ice:
That skating ability was one of the first things that Scott Powers of The Athletic mentioned on Twitter about Rinzel during last week’s prospect camp:
Everyone I’ve talked to raves about No. 59 Sam Rinzel’s skating as a defenseman pic.twitter.com/lxjmzOEVkl— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 14, 2022
Rinzel has the ideal size for a defenseman, as his 6-4 frame affords him a wide reach that makes him a nightmare for opposing forwards to navigate around in the offensive zone. The Elite Prospects scouting report on Rinzel (available here for subscribers to their site) also describes a player who has physical and mental traits that earned Rinzel the coveted “puck-moving defenseman” label:
“A talented puck-mover, Rinzel baits F1s, implements stop-ups to mess with forechecker’s momentum and separates through his crossover use. While he does attack into pressure to often — often looking for “hero” plays — he does have significant handling skill, occasionally popping the puck into his hip-pocket to protect, and all while incorporating body manipulations, and arms-away-from-body handles to beat defenders 1-on-1.”
The series of tweets below from Daniel Gee of Elite Prospects provide a few video breakdowns of Rinzel, repeating the general theme around Rinzel of a player who has massive potential because of his physical gifts. The word “toolsy” popped up in multiple corners of the internet that were describing Rinzel’s game, including that one:
Sam Rinzel possesses the projectable frame & right-shot handedness that every NHL team strives to find in the draft.— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) February 15, 2022
An overwhelming transition player & a true creative planner in sustained pressure. His potential & more - @EPRinkside #2022NHLDraft
: https://t.co/lFkSDjZ4pU pic.twitter.com/H0CfF0PyJn
Sample video from the piece. Looked at some of Rinzel's activations off the point. Incudes his decision making on-puck, adaptability off broken plays, and his tool/manipulation blend. Full breakdown of his game in the piece above. pic.twitter.com/gCWr17Oun8— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) April 20, 2022
Sam Rinzel, selected 25th by @NHLBlackhawks, is an extremely toolsy right-shot defender. While his offensive habits are immature, and he is a bit passive while defending the transition, the upside of the 6-foot-3 defender is palpable.— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) July 8, 2022
Film Room:https://t.co/lFkSDjZ4pU pic.twitter.com/JPDbXFCaha
Rinzel played with three different teams during the 2021-22 hockey season. He racked up 38 points (9 G, 29 A) while skating in 27 games for Chaska High School, tallied 10 points (2 G, 8 A) in 21 games with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks and also amassed 16 points (4 G, 12 A) while skating for Team SIT Financial Services in Upper Midwest HS Elite League Hockey.
The Elite Prospects scouting report on Rinzel that was referenced above includes a series of game reports from last season, which came back with mixed reviews. Rinzel skated in the USHL near the end of 2021, where most of the reports were glowing. Mitchell Brown wrote that Rinzel has “top-20, if not top-15 skill in this draft class,” after Waterloo’s Nov. 20 game against the Sioux City Musketeers. Rinzel returned to his high school team that winter and then headed back to Waterloo for March and April where some of the reports including opening lines like “uneventful performance” and “just a tough night for Rinzel.”
It all adds up to levels of inconsistency that can be expected from what was then a 17-year-old hockey player making the leap to the USHL for the first time. Rinzel will be back in the USHL for all of next season before fulfilling his college commitment to the University of Minnesota for the 2023-24 hockey season. It seems likely that Rinzel will spend a few years there and may still need another year or two of AHL seasoning before he’s ready to take on the NHL challenge. Again, patience will be key with Rinzel.
But if he can put it all together, a 6-4, right-handed, puck-moving defenseman who can skate is going to find ice time in virtually any era of NHL hockey.
A shift with defenseman Sam Rinzel pic.twitter.com/WM4XodLDxS— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 15, 2022