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Kootenay Ice connections thread Stanley Cup final

There will be another Kootenay Ice connection in the Stanley Cup final this year between the Edmonton Oilers and the Florida Panthers.

Edmonton bench boss Kris Knoblauch and the Oilers will face off against Sam Reinhart and the rest of the Florida squad for a chance to etch their names into history by capturing hockey’s holy grail — the Stanley Cup.

Koblauch was with the Kootenay Ice for four years, starting as an assistant coach in 2007/08 season, and stepping up into the top job two years later.

Knoblauch won a WHL championship in 2010/11 with a roster that featured a young 15-year-old Sam Reinhart as a call-up, who later went on to garner WHL Rookie of the Year honours in the 2011/12 season.

Since their time in the Key City, both have gone on to bigger and better pro hockey opportunities.

Knoblauch coached his future NHL star centre Connor McDavid for a few years with the Erie Otters, and spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Prior to joining the Oilers as a mid-season head coaching replacement, he was heading up the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack for the last five years.

Taking over from Jay Woodcraft, who was fired in November, Knoblauch coached the Oilers to a 46-18-0-5 record, good for a second place finish in the Pacific Division.

Reinhart had a monster season with the Panthers as the club’s top scorer, tallying 57 goals and 94 points in the regular season.

He is currently in the last year of a three-year contract worth $19.5 million heading into unrestricted free agency.

Following his WHL career, which included Player of the Year honours in 2014, Sam Reinhart joined the Buffalo Sabres, who had drafted him second overall in 2014.

For six years, Reinhart suited up for the Sabres, before a blockbuster trade sent him to the Florida Panthers in 2021, in exchange for prospect Devon Levi and a first round pick.

In a wild twist NHL draft history, the top three picks from the 2014 draft are facing off in the final, as first overall pick Aaron Ekblad and second overall pick Sam Reinhart are facing Leon Draisaitl, who was the third overall pick.

This is the second year in a row there’s been a Kootenay Ice connection in the Stanley Cup final. Last season Reinhart and the Panthers faced off against former Ice teammate Brayden McNabb and the Vegas Golden Knights.

Game One of the Stanley Cup final will begin in Florida on June 8.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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