Who's Afraid of Ryan Reaves? 3 Scouts Weigh In
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Ryan Reaves has underwhelmed statistically since his acquisition from the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 23rd.
Granted, Reaves wasn't acquired for his production or puck possession.
But these are the facts: Zero goals and two assists in 20 games, along with a Vegas forwards-worst Corsi For % (44.51, -6.78 Relative to Team), Scoring Chances For % (43.4, -8.01 Rel) and High-Danger Corsi For % (35.38, -9.69 Rel) at 5v5.
Basically, when Reaves is on the ice, his team doesn't have the puck. Putting all the blame for that on Reaves, of course, isn't fair.
This number stands out too: Reaves leads the team with a 22.74 5v5 Hits/60. Besides Will Carrier, who is neck and neck with a 21.46, that's three times more than any other Golden Knights forward. Ryan Carpenter, in third, owns a 7.43.
Reaves has lived up to his punishing reputation so far, as bone-crunching hits on Derek Forbort, T.J. Brodie, Troy Stecher, and Kevin Labanc have been momentum-changers -- for better and worse.
With all this in mind, Reaves has proven to be a polarizing figure up in the pressbox. And as the Knights get healthier up front, it will be interesting to see if and how Gerard Gallant utilizes Reaves in the playoffs. The enforcer appears to be competing with Carrier and Carpenter and Oscar Lindberg for a spot on the fourth line.
I asked three NHL scouts, all former pro players, their thoughts about Reaves. Two of these three competed against Reaves.
HockeyBuzz: Do some defensemen get antsy when Reaves specifically is bearing down on you?
Former AHL defenseman: Oh, absolutely. You know every time that he nears your corner, you're going to get hit.
In a long playoff series, he's the kind of guy who can wear opponents down.
Former NHL defenseman: He's a hard hitter. You have to be aware of who's coming for you.
Former NHL forward: Guys bail out. There are a lot of "bail out" players in the NHL. Just because they're more skilled doesn't mean they're as brave going back for pucks.
Some guys don't want to get hit. I don't want to get hit. But sometimes, you have to.
The dmen going back for the pucks are more likely to make mistakes. He has a history of forcing turnovers, getting pucks back for his players.
HB: Are you less likely to cheap shot an opposing team's star if Ryan Reaves is his teammate?
Former AHL defenseman: I think he creates space for others. He makes those dirty, cheapshot guys a little more accountable.
The game has changed, so those kind of guys are a little more comfortable out there.
Ryan Reaves gives his teammates comfort and gives his opposition a little discomfort.
Former NHL defenseman: I'm sure some guys are [less likely]. It's a deterrent.
Former NHL forward: 100%.
HB: But then we saw in LA, in Reaves's first game, Clifford threw a cheapshot on Lindberg.
Former NHL forward: I was very surprised. Clifford looked very intimidated by Reaves afterwards. He knew he was coming at him. Clifford didn't want it to happen.
But there other guys in the league who would be less likely to take a cheapshot knowing Reaves is over there.
HB: You would have been?
Former NHL forward: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
And sometimes, it's not just Reaves. It's just knowing that a guy will step up.
A guy like Micheal Haley. He's not super-tough. Or Tanner Glass. Both tough guys, but not as tough as Reaves. Just knowing they will come out at you. I don't want to have to fight every night.
But that feeling is even stronger with a guy like Reaves, who will not only fight you, but beat the s*** out of you.
HB: So is Reaves still worth the mistakes? He's not a big help for your skill or transition game.
Former AHL defenseman: I disagree with you a little bit. For his toolset, he does a pretty good job. He's reliable, responsible. Generally, he makes the safe, smart play with the puck.
I don't think his defensemen hesitate to pass him the puck. His details are pretty good.
In order to survive, he's had to have pretty good detail. The game's so fast now, he's really had to adapt. I give him a lot of credit. A lot of guys who played his style, they couldn't survive in today's game.
Former NHL defenseman: I don't think he's hurting you. Not everybody has the same skill level as a first-liner.
Former NHL forward: There's a give and take. You have to live with some mistakes. And it's not just the mistakes. It's the lack of production too.
If he's on the right side, he's also impacting the center and the left, their points.
He's definitely [not as a good a player as he used to be]. So does he have to play every night?
Against [a more skilled team], Reaves doesn't have to dress. Put in a Leipsic. Carrier, better player. Hyka.
HB: Not to pick on a Jordan Nolan, but just for example, Nolan shares similar qualities to Reaves. They skate fairly well, forecheck ferociously, hard to knock off the puck along the boards. So what makes Reaves more intimidating than say, a Jordan Nolan?
Former AHL defenseman: In terms of a guy who can fight, Reaves is as tough as anybody in the league.
I know what you're saying about the pace. At times, he struggles with it. But for the most part, he's solid. Most coaches -- and I've talked to a couple of his former [NHL] coaches -- they have trust that he's usually going to do the right thing with the puck.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how they use him in the playoffs.
Former NHL forward: Reaves brings that intimidation every night. Jordan Nolan doesn't.
If you look back at Jordan Nolan's fights -- I don't know how many he's had in the last few years. Last couple years, he's only had a few.
HB: True, I noticed in LA, they were using Clifford as the heavy. Clifford has a concussion history; I don't think he should be doing that.
Former NHL forward: But that's why Clifford is still there, because he steps up. Whereas Nolan didn't. He thought he could be a player, but he's not. So they thought that he was expendable.
They have Andreoff. If Clifford's not in the line-up, Andreoff would step in because he's a gamer. He'll go any night.
That's why Reaves is so good. He's intimidating every night. A lot of guys take nights off, he doesn't.
HB: Reaves is a bit of a unicorn in this league, isn't he? How has he survived?
Former AHL defenseman: He was able to adapt. He was able to get as quick as he could, he's responsible with the puck.
I'm sure as a coach, you don't really have to explain to Ryan Reaves what his role is. He's going to be a simple player, get the puck, chip it out, get it in, and forecheck. He does a pretty good job of what he needs to do.
Former NHL forward: He's lasted because he's still intimidating on the forecheck.
Back then, you'd have him in there over a Leipsic. Maybe not so much anymore. He's slowing down a bit. But that's why he survived: He wasn't just a tough guy. He was a guy who could play too.
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