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Ryan Reaves: Get to know the Golden Knights’ newest player

In case you missed it, The Vegas Golden Knights took part in the blockbuster three-team trade that sent Derick Brassard to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ian Cole to the Ottawa Senators and, of course, Ryan Reaves (as well as a 2018 fourth-round pick) to Vegas.

To acquire Reaves and the draft selection, Vegas shipped prospect Tobias Lindberg to Pittsburgh and ate 40 percent ($2 million) of the remaining annual salary on Brassard’s contract, which helped provide Pittsburgh the cap space to complete the trade.

Reaves, 31, was originally selected by the St. Louis Blues in the fifth round (No. 156 overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native finally made his NHL debut early in the 2010-11 season and went on to spend seven years playing for the Blues, totaling 27 goals, 51 points and nearly 700 penalty minutes during that span.

During the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in June, the Blues traded Reaves to Pittsburgh, where he’s registered four goals (one of them ironically against Vegas) and eight points through 58 games. He’s also accumulated 84 penalty minutes on the season.

We could go on about Reaves’ career statistics all day, but that would be trivial. To get to know more about Reaves, we reached out to Pensburgh’s Kaitlyn Dividock, who’s seen him play quite often this season, and was kind enough to provide some insight on the Golden Knights’ newest player.

What are his strengths?

Reaves’ strengths on the ice lie very much in how undesirable of an opponent he is. He’s miserable to play against. Reaves has a one-track mind much of the time, and that’s to drive every player he sees off the puck using his big stature and relentless physicality.

But lately, especially in the game against the Kings last week, Reaves has taken his being a healthy scratch to heart and has been producing offensively — sometimes with the touch you’d expect the top pairing guys to have. While gobbling up sloppy passing, he managed to fire a wrister past Jonathan Quick that none of us expected him to bury. Scoring off turnovers is what set off his little scoring stint; he did the same thing against Marc-Andre Fleury a couple games before this instance. Reaves basically made a perfect read and shot low on Fleury, getting the goal in the process. Take this all with a grain of salt, though. When he plays well, and while a Penguin, it was rare, but he had his moments, he actually can be pretty productive.

What are his weaknesses?

Reaves wasn’t trusted with many minutes from HC Mike Sullivan. He probably averaged less than three a game when he actually played and wasn’t a healthy scratch, and that was always on the fourth line. Because Reaves is known for his “protector” role, he does get into fights, which gives him one-way tickets to the penalty box often. Sure, his fighting is all well and good and makes for a great crowd-pleaser, but it also ultimately leaves his team shorthanded for five minutes a clip. Sullivan didn’t like that.

Reaves also has some issues with positioning. The way he played against Ottawa last week was, in his own words, “horrendous.” I had to agree with him. He usually skates really well for a big guy and can really be a force on the forecheck, but that game he really dropped the ball and you could tell his coach was frustrated with it. Though he skates well and has a decent two-way game, he was too slow for Pittsburgh’s style of play. In all honesty, he probably only got minutes due to some injuries to Patric Hornqvist and Tom Kuhnhackl — two guys that would absolutely start over him if they were healthy at the time.

What’s he like in the locker room?

Reaves took on his new role in Pittsburgh really, really well and it translated to his locker room presence. He was really liked by his teammates. Reaves always stood up for and protected them, and that was obviously well-received. They’ll joke that he’s a lot nicer than they anticipated given his track record. There were many times you’d see him playing practical jokes on his fellow teammates, especially Phil Kessel. He’s fun to be around and has a really endearing personality. With his departure, a lot of guys are a little upset (probably more so upset with Ian Cole leaving, but still). The locker room atmosphere definitely took a hit now that he’s shipping off to Vegas.

Is he a positive role model off the ice?

It’s funny that you mention this. I’m positive I saw that during all this trade commotion, Reaves was out in the community doing charity work in the days leading up to Friday night. He’s a big contributor to his communities — always out there trying to make the city around him a better place to live. It was inspiring to read about all his initiatives.