Deep Dive: A look into Peter Reynolds’ game
From my first viewing of Saint John Sea Dogs’ center Peter Reynolds, I was intrigued by his game. I felt – and still feel – that he isn’t getting his due attention for the 2021 NHL Draft as a fringe first-round prospect. I felt compelled to write this deep dive into Reynold’s game to put the spotlight on what seems to be one of the more truly underrated players eligible for this year’s draft.
Of course, all underrated players who fall in this range of the draft have flaws in their games. These players are usually not polished gems. They have imperfections, and parts of their game that need a bit more development to take them to the next level. For me, Reynolds falls in this category of player but the majority of the time I watch him, I see a player with the fundamental tools that make for an excellent NHL player. He’s a smart player who is extremely effective at helping his team get and keep possession in all areas of the ice.
I’ll be analyzing Reynolds’ game through the scope of the Holy Hockey Trinity (at least in my opinion) of skills a player needs in order to succeed: the brain, the hands and feet, and the compete. In addition, I’ll go through examples of Reynolds stacking these skills at both ends of the ice to create and prevent chances.
The brain, the hockey smarts, the hockey IQ, etc. All of the terms are synonymous with each other, are overused, and loaded with a lot of unhelpful filler. How a player anticipates the play and shows that they have excellent instincts is a key piece of a player’s game. I believe it is one of the most important in projecting their potential and trajectory through the development process. The following clip really displays all of the best parts of Reynolds’ game, but I think it best displays the level of understanding he has on how to get and maintain possession of the puck.
Video 1: Full Court Press Assist
In the above clip, Reynolds starts with an incredible defensive effort on Riley Kidney. The smartest thing about this play is his body positioning as he takes the puck. He cuts the hands of the puck carrier, not only cleanly removing their path to the net, but also putting himself in perfect position to gain control and make a good play. This method of physicality is much more efficient and a much smarter way to use contact to regain possession of the puck. He still gets his bump on his player, pushing them out of their lane to the net, but cutting the hands also completely removes any chance the opponent can regain control of the puck. Without taking himself out of the play like a normal bodycheck could have if not executed perfectly, Reynolds has completely neutralized Kidney here and stopped the rush dead in its tracks.
This is a fairly regular habit of Reynolds’ game when on the backcheck, and I’ve found in my viewings, he is effective at generating turnovers and being a positive possession player for his team. His instinctual body placement when generating turnovers gives him the advantage over his opponents even though he doesn’t have the stature to outmuscle opponents. Players under six foot usually need to be extremely fast, or agile to create turnovers as they can’t compete physically with bigger players. Reynolds, while not possessing elite speed, is able to use his brain to find the vulnerabilities in his opponents and attack that with intelligent body positioning to regain possession.
Next, Reynolds takes the puck behind the net to get a safe look at his options. He recognizes the skating lane up the right-wing and opts to transition the puck himself. Once he breaks the puck in, he makes a little drop pass but knows exactly what he wants to do next. Driving deeper into the zone and turning his body to face the puck carrier, opening himself up as a pass option. As the pass is on its way Reynolds stick lifts his coverage to ensure the puck reaches its destination. He continues to showcase incredible play reading and executes a back pass to Roy (SD19) who finishes.
Each part of this clip shows a different aspect of Reynold’s ability to read the play and play an incredibly intelligent positional game that really drives offensive opportunities for his team. Even without the puck, Reynolds has already thought a step ahead by finding some open ice and making himself an option as a pressure release. When he’s at his best this is the high-end, two-way game that Reynolds brings to the table.
One of Reynolds’ best traits is his support of the puck.
Video 2: Controlled Entry With Support Followup
After a quick reload into the neutral zone, Reynolds gets the puck and surveys his options upon entry. With a quick glance over his shoulder, he recognizes a teammate and makes a deft little backhand pass to a streaking teammate. As said teammate becomes overwhelmed and loses possession, Reynolds has stayed with the play and supports the puck well, quickly jumping on the loose puck. He once again quickly surveys his options before making a good pass deeper into the zone and simultaneously switching it to the other much more open side of the ice. He follows his pass to continue to support it as his team gets a chance. He ends the shift by nearly collecting the loose puck again.
Reynolds’ constant support of the puck in this fashion is one of the things he does most consistently. He is constantly moving himself to be in a better position to be an outlet pass for a teammate or jump on a loose puck. While he doesn’t always succeed in this aspect, as you can see at the end of the above clip, his recognition of the play really helps him to read and react to it instinctively and before most other players, giving him a slight, but critical advantage.
Below is another clip of Reynolds’ making an intelligent play read that makes him an excellent play driver and possession player for his team.
Video 3: Pass Pick Off & Assist
Reynolds’ starts this play below the icing line and slowly moves into the slot to provide a net-front option. When the Moncton player gets possession and makes a soft pass, Reynolds recognizes the 50/50 puck opportunity and activates with a couple quick steps. As his space is closed off he takes a quick look and drops a pass into his recently vacated space which is being filled by a teammate. This play happens so quickly and Reynolds is able to capitalize on 2 of Moncton’s mistakes with incredible speed, picking up an assist on the play.
All that being said, there are some obvious flaws to Reynolds’ game, particularly when it comes to lapses in his play reading ability. While Reynolds generally does an excellent job of supporting the puck carrier and utilizing open space well, he occasionally has lapses in this part of his game resulting in some misreads that cost his team possession.
Video 4: Play Misread
In the above clip, Reynolds is playing his support role decently well initially but the play quickly degrades into him and his teammate colliding along the boards and causing a turnover. Nicholas Girouard (SD92) very clearly needed some space to work with as he was closely covered by two opponents. SD92 makes a movement towards the boards and Reynolds makes a similar movement towards the boards. In an ideal circumstance, Reynolds makes a shoulder check and sees the opponent on his back and provides a subtle pick for his teammate to have a more clear lane along the boards to a lower pressure area closer to the corner, where he can feed a pass to their linemate who is waiting for the ring around the boards just behind the net.
These lapses in judgement and anticipation of the play don’t appear in Reynolds’ game too consistently but they are present. He will definitely need to improve upon making sure to be more aware of his surroundings and making shoulder checks a more consistent habit of his game to reduce the instances of these mistakes.
Overall, I like how Reynolds sees the game, reads plays, and leans on his instincts to get and maintain possession of the puck, being a key play driver for the Sea Dogs. I also see these deficiencies, and lapses in judgement as things he can work out through some development. Now that we’ve taken a look at Reynolds’ brain, let’s check out those hands and feet.
Reynolds’ Hands and Feet
I think one of the most important aspects of a player’s game is the brain. Without that aspect, everything else tends to suffer. Great players can seamlessly stack these attributes at elite levels, combining their anticipation with a great shot, some fancy puck skills, and smooth skating to be true game-breakers. All players have various levels of each of these parts of their games but it’s the stacking of the skills that is key. Having gone over the way Reynolds displays solid instinctual play and anticipation, now I’ll go over how he combines that with some pretty good hands and skating.
Reynolds isn’t necessarily a flashy player and generally won’t blow you away with highly polished puck skills or highlight-reel plays. But even still I find what he brings to the table to be effective at creating offence and advancing the puck.
Video 5: Centre Lane Streak
In the above clip, Reynolds recognizes the lane through the centre of the ice, gets on his horse and makes a great effort to split the D, wrangle the pass and generate a scoring chance. His acceleration here is quite good, he leans forward as he hits his own blue line, getting a nice wide stance with solid hip flexion enabling him to generate a good amount of power with each stride. His strides are quick as he recovers his feet quickly underneath him to prepare for the next stride allowing him to create impressive speed and giving him the entry momentum to be able to slip between the two defenders.
My favourite part of this clip though is the ease with which Reynolds can take a bad pass that goes into his skates and transfer up to his stick. He barely misses a beat here and it’s why he’s able to generate a scoring chance while driving the puck straight down main street between two defenders. This is a skill that Reynolds routinely shows off as we will see in our next clip.
Video 6: Bad Pass Reception & Deceptive Shot
In this clip, Reynolds once again receives a tough pass that hits him in the skates. He quickly kicks it up to his stick and is entering the offensive zone when the camera catches up to him. As he continues to drive through to the centre of the ice, he is looking backdoor pass almost the entire time, right up until the very last second. As the sequence continues the opposing defender inadvertently screens his own goalie. Reynolds deftly reads this play on the fly and opts for a shot through the defender. While the defender manages to get a stick on it and the puck is snapped up by the goalie, this play in my mind really shows how Reynolds can stack his instinctual reading of the play with his hand-eye coordination, puck skills and skating.
Video 7: Transition to Controlled Entry To Scoring Chance
In my opinion Reynolds shows off all of his best tools in the above clip. Starts the sequence by coming back to his D and surfing up through the circle. He’s supporting the puck while giving an outlet option and also generating speed by playing above the puck and working in some crossovers. As soon as he receives the puck Reynolds has already gotten to top speed and is able to mix in some linear crossovers for an added boost as he works his way to the outside lane through transition. As he enters the offensive zone with control of the puck he surveys his options and then executes a drop pass before jumping over to provide an option on the weak side. He attempts to shovel the puck into the slot for a scoring chance but the Sea Dogs are denied.
I would like to see Reynolds mix in the linear crossovers at a higher ratio to his forward strides through transition. As mentioned, he has a good overall top-end gear that he generates from a good lean and quick and powerful strides. But if he would opt for some deceptive skating patterns more often he could be even more difficult to read through transition and open up a much larger number of skating lanes and zone entry options for himself. With that increase in deception and speed, it could really help Reynolds produce even more offence off the rush. This is one of those parts of his game that, if he can take it to the next level, he’ll make the team that takes him look really smart.
Here’s another example of Reynolds creating a scoring chance for his team through some great positioning, and at a high level of speed, mixed in with good recognition of where he needed to be on this play to make it happen.
Video 8: Transition & Changing Gears
Here once again, Reynolds comes down nice and low and surfs up to provide his D with strong support and provide an outlet option. He exits with control, makes a good pass through transition before changing gears and being shot out of a cannon to gain that centre lane straight to the slot for a chance on net.
Reynolds doesn’t own an elite shot, and his puck skills are pretty good, but again, not elite. Even his skating won’t necessarily blow you away. But when you combine both his hands and his feet with his ability to read the play, they create a player who can effectively multitask to drive the play North with lateral compatibility. Add in a final ingredient and you have a player who can have a positive impact on possession for his team when he’s on the ice.
Compete like hockey sense is a loaded term. It can mean so many different things and is often thought of when you talk about big power forwards, depth players, and players who play a physical style of game. The way I describe compete is like bay leaves to a spaghetti sauce. You often won’t realize it’s there until it isn’t. It ties everything together in a delicious bow. It’s a commitment to having good habits and fundamentals that make a competitive player. They get back on the backcheck, they tirelessly support their teammates off the puck, they are committed to gaining and keeping possession of the puck.
In my opinion, Reynolds shows incredible compete in the majority of his shifts. In most of the clips I showed above, Reynolds can be seen skating hard, getting back on the backcheck, closely supporting his teammates and providing an outlet option. In the first clip in the article towards the end of the shift, he stick lifts an opponent in the corner to ensure the puck gets to him in a good position in the corner. Not only is this really great anticipation of the play, but it’s also showing he’s not willing to cede a puck to a player simply because they might be in his way.
Video 9: Win The Puck & Protect It
While there might not be much impressive about the above clip but I wanted to highlight this because it’s what I see regularly from Reynolds. He sees a loose puck and activates on it winning the 50/50 puck race. With a player on his back, he starts surveying his options while leaning into the attack and trying to angle towards the net. Once he recognizes a teammate headed to the back of the net, he’s able to execute a pass. In many of my viewings, Reynolds consistently is a positive impact player for his team in all 3 zones. He is as committed to coming back in support as he is on the offensive side of the puck. But let’s not just trust my eyes. Let’s dig into the numbers.
Finally, we’ll take a quick look at the numbers to see how my eye test compares. I’ll start with this heat map provided by our friends over at InStat.
Though it’s a small sample size of just five games you can really see how Reynolds impacts the game in all three zones. He has a ton of activity throughout all three zones but has his most impact in the faceoff dots and along the RW wall from the centre line down into the slot. His faceoff win percentage is a respectable 49% this season. This is actually something that is evident from watching Reynolds play. He takes a large number of faceoffs even though he’s not the 1C on the team, and is even trusted to take a number of DZ faceoffs as well. The deep red area down the RW lane makes a lot more sense when you take it into context Reynolds’ shot and goal chart.
The black circles are shots on goal, x’s are missed or blocked shots, blue S’s are from shootout shots that are not goals and obviously the red G’s mean a goal. Reynolds is quite stacked up on the right side and this is primarily due to his role along the half-wall on the powerplay. As I previously mentioned, Reynolds doesn’t own a high-end shot. As such I would like to see those shots cluster more in the slot as he won’t find much success in beating the goalie straight up from that circle with his current shooting mechanics. His goals mostly cluster into that zone, which confirms that thinking. At the same time, Reynolds is definitely generating offence and a plethora of scoring chances for his team with his ability to get the puck on net or at least around the net.
I’ll preface this part by saying I have not tracked these games myself and am utilizing the data provided by InStat. This season has been a shortened one thus far as well and all of this is to say these numbers could be outliers and we need a much bigger sample size to really take anything definitive from them. Using the data provided by InStat I took Reynolds’ Corsi For (the scoring chances for his team while he’s on the ice) and his Corsi Against (the number of scoring chances against his team when he’s on the ice) and was able to calculate a rough Corsi For % (CF%). Reynolds’ CF% is 57%. This means that when Reynolds is on the ice, his team is controlling significantly more of the play than their opponents. 57% is quite good, and as previously stated this number definitely needs to be taken with a grain of salt due to QMJHL data being significantly flawed, but it does help to confirm my eye test, that Reynolds positively drives play for his team when he’s on the ice.
The Next Steps
As I mentioned in the intro to this article, I think Reynolds is an underrated player for the 2021 NHL Draft. The underlying numbers look great and he has a really solid base set of tools that work well together to drive offense for his team, even if he isn’t necessarily directly racking up the points. At some point, he will have to increase his point totals at the junior level, but in this weird world that has players starting and stopping and off for long periods of time, I think looking at the skills he displays is even more critical than in years past.
Reynolds shows that he has great instincts, and can make some really incredible plays in all 3 zones. He’s also not perfect in this aspect and will need to work on slowing the game down a bit for himself and really commit himself to nail down the fundamentals. He will never be the big hulking two-way power forward but his ability to combine his understanding of the game with some quick hands and feet make him trustworthy to toss over the boards no matter the situation. I think picking up Reynolds in the early second round of the 2021 NHL Draft could look like a shrewd move down the line.