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2023 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Lukas Reichel slips to No. 3

Source: Rockford IceHogs (Todd Reicher)

The 2023 version of Second City Hockey’s Top 25 Under 25 rankings continues with our Top 10, which will contain a lengthier breakdown of each individual who made it into that group. The voters for this year’s installment consisted of each of the four SCH writers, who submitted individual ballots.

No. 3 — Lukas Reichel

  • Position: Center/Wing
  • Birth date: May 17, 2002 (21)
  • Acquired via: First-round pick (No. 17) in 2020 NHL Draft
  • 2022-23 team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL); Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
  • 2022-23 AHL stats: 51 points (20 G, 31 A) in 55 games
  • 2022-23 NHL stats: 15 points (7 G, 8 A) in 23 games
  • Size: 6-foot-0, 170 pounds
  • Contract: 1-year, $925,000 AAV (entry-level contract)
  • Rankings: 3 (Dave, Mil, LBR), 5 (Eric)
  • Last T25U25 ranking: No. 2

Since being drafted in 2020, Lukas Reichel has been one of the undisputed top prospects in the Blackhawks organization, reaching his highest rank of No. 2 in the SCH Top 25 Under 25 ranking last year. While his slip in the standings this year is primarily due to the introduction of Connor Bedard to the prospect pool, Reichel did have his first bout of adversity last season in Rockford, and that played a small role in his drop as well. Still, there’s no denying it: Reichel is one of only two drafted forward prospects ready for the NHL now in a potential top-six role.

Even though it’s been just three years since he was drafted, it feels like we’ve been waiting forever for Reichel to play consistently in a Blackhawks jersey. He didn’t come over to North America immediately after being drafted, opting instead to play another season with Eisbären Berlin in the DEL. It was a great choice for him, as he got his first experience playing in a top-line role as a center. Although Reichel may end up being a wing long-term in the NHL, playing center often forces young players to be more defensively aware and take on a more play-driving role. He ended up going almost a point-per-game after the switch to center, finishing that season with 10 goals and 17 assists in 38 games.

The Blackhawks obviously loved the switch in position because, when Reichel came over to play in Rockford the next season, they set up him as the top-line center and never looked back. He racked up 57 points (21 G, 36 A) in 57 regular-season games and added another two goals in five playoff games in his first season in North America. He also played in 11 games with the Blackhawks, although he had only one assist during that span. Reichel’s progress in the AHL had many fans clamoring for his graduation to the NHL full-time last season, but the Blackhawks front office didn’t do this for two reasons: first, because they were intentionally tanking, and second, because they wanted to take a patient approach with their (at the time) top forward prospect.

It’s probably the right decision in the long run, as Reichel hit a rough patch in his sophomore season in the AHL. He started the season off extremely strong, bettering his point-per-game pace through much of the first quarter, but Reichel started to stutter after his three-game call-up to the Blackhawks. Interestingly, Reichel looked very good in those three NHL games — recording a goal and two assists in the second game — but he had his worst offensive span when he returned to the IceHogs with just three goals and seven assists in his next 19 games. That 0.53 point-per-game rate was half the pace he’d maintained prior to that point. Some of this was due to the limited roster in Rockford at the time, but Reichel also wasn’t performing to the best of his abilities.

Luckily, Reichel rejoined the Blackhawks at the start of March and he seemed to feed off the bigger stage again. His latter stint in the NHL wasn’t without some rookie mistakes, but the coaching staff put him on the wing to negate some of his responsibilities, and he started to shine offensively as he added more games to his NHL career. Reichel ended up with 12 points (6 G, 6 A) in those 19 games, averaging about 17:43 TOI in that span.

If you want to read a deep dive into Reichel’s statistical performance in the NHL last season, check out my article from June. Here are some excerpts though:

[His] overall 0.65 points-per-game rate is pretty solid for any rookie, especially considering Reichel spent much of his time with the Blackhawks after their best offensive players – Patrick Kane and Max Domi – were already gone. The three January games were with Domi while Kane was out with an injury, but the 19 games in the last quarter of the season were played primarily with Andreas Athanasiou, Philipp Kurashev, and Anders Bjork …

His 1.77 points per 60 was only a little below Kane’s 1.81, so he’s already off to a good start in terms of being able to convert and help his teammates do so. His contribution to goals was 64.29 percent, which is above average but not as high as expected of a player who tends to be involved in offense as much as Reichel does …

“His shooting habits could use some tweaking to get even more out of him from a goals perspective: he only shot at a rate of 6.11 shots per 60 (just below average) and his expected goals per 60 rate was 0.66 (just above average but could be better) …” 

“His rush offense alone this season is a good indication of things to come in the future: not only did he individually have 11.96 shots per 60 off the rush, 3.98 of his entries per 60 led to a scoring chance for himself or a linemate – both above average. On top of that, Reichel’s carry-in percentage was 62.5, well above average and third behind Domi and Athanisou.”

Although originally Reichel was expected to stay with the Blackhawks through the end of the season, he was returned to Rockford midway through April because the IceHogs were on the cusp of not making the playoffs. Reichel finished the regular season with five points (3 G, 2 A) in the final four regular-season games but picked up only an additional goal and assist in his five postseason games.

Despite the lack of production and not looking quite right in the playoffs, Reichel wasn’t without his moments at the end of the season. He still finished with 20 goals and 51 points in 55 games, just shy of a point-per-game for the season. Reichel did all of this while playing as the highest TOI player, seeing ice time in every situation.

Also to note, Reichel was apparently injured early in the playoffs against the Iowa Wild, which very likely affected his play in the playoffs. This injury kept him from joining Germany for the World Championship.

What’s Next?

Reichel has accomplished everything he likely can in the AHL, so it’s time for him to prove that he can play fully in the NHL, and the Blackhawks will give him every opportunity to do so. And while it might be neat to see the two top prospects play together, Reichel will play second (or even third line) minutes separated from Connor Bedard so as to not overwhelm either young player. Luckily, the Blackhawks picked up several veterans — like Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno, and Corey Perry — and resigned others (like Andreas Athanasiou) last off-season to give those young players experience to rely on as they make the transition to the NHL. Reichel had some chemistry at the end of the season with Athanasiou and Phillip Kurashev, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them reunited to start the year.

As for what to expect in terms of Reichel’s production, the bar shouldn’t be set too high, considering the quality of the team is still likely going to be pretty low. The Blackhawks have had two players with similar draft positioning make the NHL leap around the same age, and they both produced at a PPG rate under 0.5 in their first full NHL season: Teuvo Teravainen managed 0.45 PPG in 2015-16 (with a much better Blackhawks team, albeit in a mostly third-line role) and Nick Schmaltz hit 0.46 in 2016-17 (while playing mostly with Patrick Kane).

And GM Kyle Davidson offered some insight during Tuesday’s media availability on which forward position Reichel will handle:

2023 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 list (so far):