The Blackhawks took care of an important housekeeping item on Wednesday when they agreed to terms with top prospect Lukas Reichel. His three-year, entry-level contract will begin next season and carry a $925,000 cap hit.
"I’m really proud to be part of the organization with the Blackhawks," Reichel said in his first media availability on Friday. "I'm so excited. I'm really looking forward to the future with the Blackhawks and I’m just really happy."
Soon after he was drafted by the Blackhawks with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Reichel was asked how long it might be before he envisions himself becoming a full-time NHL player.
"Two years," Reichel responded.
But he may have accelerated his timeline.
Reichel, 19, recorded 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 38 games this season for Eisbären Berlin of the DEL, Germany's top professional league, and added two goals and three assists in nine postseason contests. He also registered two goals and four assists in nine games at the 2021 IIHF World Championship, with his six points ranking third on Team Germany.
"I think I played a good season with Eisbären and the national team, too," Reichel said. "So yeah, I’m really looking forward and will give my best in training camp next season and this summer, too, and then we’ll see what happens."
The Blackhawks drafted Reichel as a winger but he played center for the majority of the year and excelled in that role, whether it was with Eisbären or Team Germany. It's unclear whether the organization views him long-term as a center or winger, but they certainly like the versatility he brings.
"That’s a great option for our coaches to have," President/GM Stan Bowman said during his exit interviews in May. "It’s too early to tell whether he’ll be an NHL center or not, but the fact he’s got some experience there shows he has pretty good instincts and hockey sense. He took a nice step forward offensively, production-wise he had a good year, so that’s a positive.
"Style-wise, he’s going to fit in really nicely with our team. We’re going to be aware of the fact he’s only 19 years old. I’m not putting high expectations on him. I’m singling him out as someone in the coming couple of years as someone who can rise to prominence. It might take him a year or two, but that’s OK. We like the skill set he brings and I think he’s going to be a player who’s going to help us out in the coming years."
The next step for Reichel's development is putting on more muscle to be able to hang with men at the NHL level. Last season, he played at 74kg (163 pounds). This season, he was between 80-81kg (176-178 pounds).
The Blackhawks are going to be patient with Reichel, but it's difficult for Chicago not to get excited about what kind of impact he could make with the team for years to come if he continues to progress on the path he's currently on.
"I can’t wait to come over," Reichel said. "It’s a great city and a great organization. It’s like a dream for me to play for Chicago. I can’t wait."