For the first time in franchise history, the Blackhawks selected a player at No. 17 overall Tuesday night. Chicago decided to go a bit off the board from what most draft experts predicted by selecting Eisbaren Berlin left wing Lukas Reichel.
Not the plan?
If the Blackhawks had it their way, they would have drafted another player as they tried to move up in the draft.
Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said general manager Stan Bowman talked with Winnipeg, Nashville and Florida at Nos. 10-12, but “the teams really weren’t very receptive to trading back.
The next three picks saw expected names go off the board with forwards Seth Jarvis (WHL Portland) to Hurricanes, Dylan Holloway (NCAA Wisconsin) to Oilers and Rodion Amirov (KHL Salavat Yulaev Ufa) to Maple Leafs. The Canadiens then took left-handed defenseman Kaiden Guhle (WHL Prince Albert).
Not a position of need in prospect pool
The Blackhawks have stated they value the best player of available in the first round, and they believe Reichel was the choice. Chicago certainly isn’t hurting for left wings in their prospect pool.
Prior to drafting Reichel, the Blackhawks had eight left wings in the system without including European free agent Pius Suter. Bowman said the plan is for Suter to claim a roster spot prior to next season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1, 2021. Brandon Hagel, who was the Blackhawks’ AHL MVP and made his NHL debut last season, and Michal Teply look to be the top two left wings behind Suter in the prospect pool.
Reichel, who turned 18 years old on May 17, scored 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in 42 games for Eisbaren Berlin in the DEL. Those numbers don’t really jump off the page, but then you consider he was a 17-year-old playing against men.
“The thing that stands out in his game is the hockey IQ [and] his ability to make plays,” Kelley said. “Because of the IQ [and] his ability to play with skilled players, I think he has the potential to be an impact player and play in the top-six.”
Despite being a left wing, Reichel said he models his game after a young European center.
“My game style is maybe like Elias Pettersson, because I’m not the biggest guy, not the strongest guy on the ice, but I’m a smart guy,” he said. “I’m a good skater and I like to shoot.”
Pettersson has scored 66 points in each of his first two NHL seasons with the Canucks, who drafted him fifth overall in 2017. The Swede scored 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 43 games for Timrå IK in Sweden’s second division during his draft year. He joined the Canucks in 2018 after scoring 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) in 44 regular-season games and 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 13 playoff contests for Växjö.
When will Reichel be ready for NHL?
Reichel has one year remaining on his contract with Berlin, so he could sign with the Blackhawks and come to North America for the 2021-22 season. Kelley said there’s no timetable for Reichel yet because they like his current situation.
“He gets lots of ice time,” Kelley said. “The development he’s getting right now [with] Eisbaren... we like that. That was one of the attractions to him. He’s in a really good situation. Probably if he’s looked at the situation development wise it’s a perfect fit.”
Reichel, however, had a more direct answer to when he could be a full-time NHL player: “Two years.”
Size isn’t an issue
With several bigger sized forwards still on the board, it was surprising to see the Blackhawks select the smaller Reichel given how the team decided to covet size at last year’s draft.
Reichel is listed at 6 feet and 170 pounds, but said he’s gained six kilograms (13 pounds) during the summer. The increase puts him at 183 pounds.
“It was my goal to gain some weight,” he said. “Now I feel better on the ice in the battles already and try to get better more and more in the next year.
Kelley said he sees Reichel filling out well.
“He has a lean, long body,” Kelley said of Reichel. “He has good bone structure. He has a body that can carry more muscle than he has right now. He’s not a small kid. He’s not a really a slight kid, but you can see the potential for that body to grow.”
Favorite player, team growing up
Like so many draft prospects recent years, Reichel said he grew found of the Blackhawks when they were winning multiple Stanley Cup championships from 2010-15. He was 8 when Chicago won its first Cup in 49 years in 2010.
“When I was younger my favorite player was always Patrick Kane and my favorite team was always Chicago,” Reichel said. “Now I’m a Blackhawk too and that’s so awesome.”