Leading up to training camp opening up, the General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, Kyle Davidson, spoke about his vision for the future of forward prospect Lukas Reichel. Charlie Roumeliotos of NBC Sports Chicago reports that Davidson believes Reichel is NHL-ready for the upcoming season and envisions him to play down the middle of the ice.
Reichel was originally drafted by Chicago as the 17th overall selection of the 2020 NHL Draft, a few years after the rebuild started for the Blackhawks organization. He spent the next season with the Eisbaren Berlin of the DEL, before finally making the transition to North American hockey for the 2021-22 NHL season. Being a part of the taxi squad at the beginning of the season for Chicago, Reichel received two separate call-ups in February and April of that year.
Primarily playing in the AHL, Reichel showed an impressive rookie effort for the Rockford Ice Hogs, scoring 21 goals and 36 assists in 56 games, finishing first on the team in scoring as a 20-year-old. Playing in 11 games for the Blackhawks that year, Reichel only recorded one assist, receiving a tad over 13 minutes of ice time per night. Aside from his play on the ice, Reichel did suffer from an undisclosed injury that would keep him out of the lineup for a little over two weeks but has sustained a clean bill of health since that point.
Much like his first year playing in North America, Reichel spent much of last season in Rockford but did play with the Blackhawks in a full-time role for the last month of the season. In a similar effort to his previous season, Reichel was once again effectively a point-per-game player in the AHL, scoring 20 goals and 31 points in 55 games.
Receiving the full-time callup one day before the 2022-23 trade deadline, Reichel became a focal point of the Blackhawks offense down the stretch. Well, outside of the playoff picture at that point, the organization was able to give Reichel just under 17 minutes a night, and he rewarded the team with six goals and six assists in only 19 games.
With his play to wind down the 2022-23 regular season for the Blackhawks, there shouldn’t be any question as to whether or not Reichel is ready for NHL minutes, but more so around Davidson’s belief he will be an effective option at center moving forward. Chicago did give Reichel 13 opportunities in the dot last year, as he would finish with a FO% of only 38.5%.
Although he has limited NHL experience up to this point, Reichel’s defensive metrics and possession metrics have not struck much confidence in his play on both sides of the puck. Without a doubt, the Blackhawks will start Connor Bedard as their number one center option this season, and one would also assume that their 2022 13th overall selection, Frank Nazar, will get the nod in the future holding down the second line.
Nevertheless, although it is never a given that a team will not make the playoffs, the Blackhawks still do not project as a playoff team for the upcoming season. Given where they are at in their organizational timeline, they don’t have much to lose trying Reichel out at the center position for this year.