The Chicago Blackhawks have had a few players active this summer while they are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One of which was 2020 first round draft pick Lukas Reichel as he competed in the IIHF World Championships with Germany over the past few weeks in Riga, Latvia. After finishing fourth in the tournament with the German team, Reichel signed his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks though the 2023-24 season.
Moments like this never get old 😌
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 11, 2021
There was little speculation as a matter of if Reichel would sign his deal this offseason, but more of when. It was rumored back in April and May that Reichel would wait until after the World Championships, and then his agent confirmed the plan would be the sign following the tournament. Reichel’s entry-level deal comes with a $925,000 AAV Cap hit and will likely come with performance bonuses, as most top-tier rookie contracts do.
Reichel spoke with the Chicago media via Zoom on Friday in his first ever Blackhawks press conference. Talking about his future plans with the club and his outlook on the upcoming season, which is likely to be his first in North America in the NHL and/or AHL.
Lukas Reichel's first Blackhawks (zoom) press conference is happening now.
"I'm really proud to be part of the organization… I'm so excited and I'm really looking forward to the future."
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) June 11, 2021
The 19-year-old centerman has spent the last two season with Eisbären Berlin in the German DEL. He has skated in 80 games over the past two years, tallying 22 goals and 51 points. This past season, Reichel finished fifth on Eisbären in points with 27 in 38 games as Berlin went on to win the DEL Championships. Reichel added two goals and five points in nine DEL playoff games.
Lukas Reichel on how soon he expects to join the Blackhawks (roughly): "I don’t really know yet, but I will have meetings next week with the fitness coach and we will figure it out, when I will come over."
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) June 11, 2021
With the Blackhawks having so many young players and rookie have breakout years in 2021, the plan for Reichel could likely be to throw him into the mix and see if some of that momentum built from players like Brandon Hagel and Philipp Kurashev could rub-off on the former 17th overall pick and lead to him a breakout rookie season of his own. But, that’s all pie in the sky thinking at this moment. It’s more likely that Reichel starts the season with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL and then makes the jump to the Blackhawks and the NHL, giving him time to adjust to the smaller rink and faster speed of the game on North American ice.
Lukas Reichel: "I will give my best in training camp next season and this summer, too. We'll see what happens." #Blackhawks
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) June 11, 2021
Or it’s possible the Blackhawks toss him in the deep end and see if he sinks or swims. There is still uncertainty around the playing status of Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews heading into the 2021-22 season. While there is more optimism than there may have been surrounding his health and playing status a few months ago, there is no guarantee that he will play next season. If that were the case, it’s probable that Reichel gets into the lineup for Chicago at the NHL level where they lack depth at the center position outside of Kirby Dach.
Lukas Reichel added 15 pounds after he was drafted. He's not done. #Blackhawks
"I still want to gain weight. The ice is smaller, and the [NHL] is tougher. It’s small battles in the corners, but I have to prepare for that. That’s why I want to get stronger this summer."
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) June 11, 2021
Reichel was drafted at about 6’0″ and 170 pounds. If he has added that much weight since last October, that helps making him stronger and sturdier as he prepares to play in the NHL. Reichel’s game in the DEL showcased an ability to play below the goal-line, in the corners, and in front of the net at an effective rate. Things get bigger, faster, tougher, more physical at the NHL level, and Reichel will have to develop his skills and strength at the same rate. The last thing the Blackhawks need is another perimeter forward. Chicago was one of the smallest and lightest teams in the NHL last season and while adding Reichel won’t move that needle in the other direction, if he’s getting stronger, it only helps his case to be more prepared for the next level.
I’m excited to see what he can do next season. If his performances over the past two seasons professionally in Germany and on the international stage at the 2020 World Junior Championships and the 2021 IIHF World Championships are any indication, I believe the Blackhawks have a real talent on their hands and could have a long-term building block in their organization to help them build back to being one of the top teams in the NHL again.