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2022 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Lukas Reichel climbs to 2

The 2020 first-round pick had his first glimpse of NHL action last season.

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NHL: APR 16 Blackhawks at Predators Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Second City Hockey’s 2022-23 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2022. The rankings are determined by a composite score from all four SCH writers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.

It should be no surprise that Lukas Reichel nearly tops the 2022 T25U25 here at SCH since he’s been the most highly touted prospect since being drafted in 2020. He’s been so impressive over the last couple of seasons that he’s been getting recognition even from those outside of Chicago Blackhawks fandom. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked Reichel at No. 41 of prospects under the age of 23. Valid arguments can be made that Reichel should be at the top of this prospect mountain but, no matter where he’s ended up, he’s undeniably one of the best in the Blackhawks system.

Originally drafted as a left wing, Reichel has played the better part of the last two seasons as a center. He was promoted to first-line center with Eisbären Berlin in late January 2021, and he performed so well there — with 25 of his 27 points coming in the final 30 DEL games — that the Blackhawks decided to continue his development in that role with Rockford in the AHL. It looked like a success, too, as Reichel produced at an 1.02 point-per-game rate in 56 AHL games.

Also of note, Reichel’s 57 points during the AHL regular season were the most points for a rookie in IceHogs history. The previous record was 51 points in 66 games set by Vinnie Hinoztroza in the 2015-16 season. Not only did Reichel beat that by six points, he did it in 10 fewer games.

Additionally, Reichel spent 11 games in the NHL last season, primarily playing with Patrick Kane on the top line for the Blackhawks. Although he only earned one point during that span and wasn’t exactly a standout, there really wasn’t much to critique about his play either. That’s not to say there weren’t some areas in which he needed to improve — less deferment to veterans, adjusting timing on plays, acclimating to the size of the opposition — but most of that has to come with more experience.

Reichel has a great combination of above average skating ability and puck skills that project to top-six quality in the NHL. He’s got decent speed, but it’s really his agility and speed adjustment that make him dangerous in transitions. His passing also may not be as flashy as some other playmaking forwards in the system, but he’s been extremely effective. Reichel’s clearly been watching some Kane tape as well:

Although he isn’t known for his goal scoring, Reichel did improve his shooting habits in Rockford — especially in terms of shot volume — later in the season. He’s still a pass-first type of player, though, so more work is needed in this area.

Lastly, Reichel has really made strides to become a more balanced, two-way player in Rockford. His forechecking/backchecking, stick checks, and pickpocketing abilities were obvious in practically every game.

What’s next?

It’s unknown where Reichel is going to be playing next season. He dominated the AHL last season at 19 and then was easily the best player at the Tom Kurvers Showcase this past weekend, so it would make sense that he’s ready to be in the NHL this next season. He’s also reportedly put on upwards of 15 pounds of muscle since last season, so the added physical maturity should help if he makes that NHL transition.

However, there’s also a chance Reichel might spend more time in Rockford due to the Blackhawks intentionally trying to be bad this upcoming season. Not only would Reichel likely help them get wins — which is the opposite of what the front office wants while trying to tank — they also might believe it’s better to keep Reichel away from how terrible the team is going to be.

If Reichel does start the season in Rockford or is sent there for some extra time during the next season, there would be precedent with that strategy, as I pointed out back in May:

Reichel looks to be on a similar development path to Teuvo Teräväinen and Nick Schmaltz: they both spent two years in non-NHL leagues — Liiga and NCAA, respectively — before making it to the NHL at age 20. However, both of those playmakers also spent some additional time in the AHL that same first season, to their betterment, so a patient approach to Reichel’s development and progress next season is key for the Blackhawks.

No matter where Reichel ends up, he definitely seems to have the tools and is on the right developmental path to be a top-six NHL player, like the two players mentioned above.

We just have to wait to see how long it’ll take for him to get there permanently.