Back in the Fall, Chicago Hockey Now ranked the top 10 prospects in the Chicago Blackhawks pipeline. Those rankings had Connor Bedard sitting at the top of the list–while only being in the organization for three months. Today we look at the second best prospect ranked who happened to be Lukas Reichel who hasn’t exactly been what anyone has expected–including himself.
Current Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Stats: 3 Goals; 6 Assists; 9 Points
Drafted: 2020 17th overall by Stan Bowman
So, How’s It Going?
Not as expected. Reichel was supposed to be one of the younger prospects graduating and helping Bedard lead the offensive attack–and it hasn’t gone as planned. Reichel has struggled this season to find the performance he had last season. In 23 games last season, he had 15 points (7-8). This season, he has yet to hit double digits in points. It doesn’t sound like the Blackhawks will send him down to Rockford or have lost hope.
Not yet anyway.
Ranking Higher, Lower, Holding, or Graduated?
He’s graduated, but now it gets complicated. The high hopes that followed Reichel into this season have been replaced by disappointment and in some cases, a question of if Reichel will figure it out in time. Like Bedard, he’s fully graduated from the prospect pool. Unlike Bedard, he hasn’t taken to the NHL like the former has.
Now and Later: Where Does Lukas Reichel Fit In the Grand Scheme of Things?
Right now it’s likely a careful wait and see. The Blackhawks have three options with Lukas Reichel:
- Trade him while has value left and add a player that fits the system better
- Send him back to Rockford to figure things out
- Push through, sign a one-year extension, and give it a final look next season
General manager Kyle Davidson provides the strongest clue of how the team views things so far.
“I think it’s been a little ups and downs,” Davidson said. “I think we’ve seen some flashes of good confidence coming back. With young players, we talk about our prospects is you know what, it takes time. There’s ups and downs, there’s hurdles to overcome, and he’s going through one of those grinds, and those times where you work your way through.
I think we’ve seen some signs of coming out of that, playing a little faster, playing a little more assertive with the puck, and hopefully he can keep stepping up and continue to the point where he’s got the confidence and play the way we saw him play at the end of the year.”
Taking Davidson at face value, it sure seems as if the Blackhawks are opting for the third route.
Impatience often dictates decisions that can often backfire. Look at the St. Louis Blues and Tage Thompson. But there are other examples like Filip Zadina, too. Reichel appears to be lost at times not on the ice, but in terms of trying to determine what the heck is going on. One of his greatest assets is his speed and he appears on the ice at times as if he’s chained to it.
On a play against Dallas, Reichel hesitated with the puck where he likely should have kept pushing in the zone. Instead, the puck was stolen, and what appeared a great chance for Chicago was suddenly going the other way. The 90’s classic The Sandlot has a scene where the amazing Benny the Jet Rodriguez advises the unsure, clumsy Scott Smalls on how to play baseball: You gotta stop thinking! Just have fun!
This needs to be Reichel’s mantra, albeit it for hockey. For every stupid thing that happens on the ice, like a puck hopping over his stick or the unfortunate play mentioned above, stop thinking. Just play.
The Blackhawks want to see the player who zipped around the ice last season for both Rockford and Chicago. They want the opposite of the player who now appears to often be playing too careful, fearful of making a mistake.
It’s likely to take some more time, and it sure seems like Davidson and company are willing to give it to him. Now he just needs to make the most of it.