The Chicago Blackhawks No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft may be on his way to the NHL.
According to a report from NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis, the Blackhawks are calling up Lukas Reichel. Per the report, the plan is to put Reichel on the team’s taxi squad with the intention of preparing him for his NHL debut “soon.”
Source: #Blackhawks are calling up top prospect Lukas Reichel.— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) January 12, 2022
He will be assigned to the taxi squad, which is likely the first step towards ramping him up for NHL action soon. https://t.co/e2I7cQirsg
[UPDATE] The Blackhawks have confirmed the report:
The Blackhawks have recalled forward Lukas Reichel from the @goicehogs and assigned him to the taxi squad pic.twitter.com/woN7tyD8r5— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 12, 2022
Reichel, who’s still just 19 years old, has been the IceHogs leader in goals (11) and points (20) and was also second on the team with nine assists. Reichel missed time in December while being in protocols for a concussion and later for COVID-19 but returned with a vengeance in January, posting three goals and three assists in two weekend games, earning AHL Player of the Week honors:
Congrats, Lukas!— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) January 10, 2022
Forward Lukas Reichel has been named the AHL Player of the Week after scoring three goals and six points in two games last weekend! #Blackhawks https://t.co/eLlIMU7ovR pic.twitter.com/VxctBDExPt
There are two sides to this news: one is that the Blackhawks are rushing a(nother) young prospect to the NHL without giving him proper time to develop in the AHL — especially true for Reichel, who was playing his first season on North American ice while with the IceHogs. Another factor here is the potential to push back the start of Reichel’s entry-level contract, which would “slide” back another season if he plays fewer than 10 NHL games in 2021-22.
But the other side of that debate is that if a player is truly ready for the NHL level, there’s nothing extra they’re going to learn in the dump-and-chase game that dominates the AHL, that they’re best-served with an NHL promotion that allows high-skilled players the opportunity to display those skills at the game’s highest level.
The most interesting part will be seeing where Reichel slots into the Blackhawks’ lineup upon arrival, because he’s probably not on his way to Chicago for a fourth-line role.
As a reminder of Reichel’s ability, here are the highlights from a Nov. 7 game against Manitoba when Reichel scored a hat trick: