For the first time since 2013, the Blackhawks drafted a winger in the first round of the NHL Draft after taking Lukas Reichel with the No. 17 overall pick on Tuesday.
Reichel, 18, said he grew up rooting for the Blackhawks and admitted Patrick Kane is one of his favorite players. But when will he get a chance to play with the likes of Kane and Jonathan Toews in the NHL?
"Two years," Reichel said, without hesitation.
The when might not be as important as what kind of player he could be in the long term. The Blackhawks haven’t drafted an elite winger in the first round since Kane in 2007, although Teuvo Teravainen was growing into one before he was traded in 2015.
The organizational philosophy has always been to take the best available player in the first round and not necessarily a positional need. The Blackhawks feel they checked both boxes and got a player with significant long-term upside.
“I think the thing that stands out in his game is the hockey IQ and his ability to make plays,” Blackhawks Vice President of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley said. “Because of the IQ and his ability to play with skilled players, I think he has the potential to be an impact player and play in the top-six.”
Even though he plays left wing, Reichel said he tries modeling his game after Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson, who’s already an NHL superstar at age 21. That's not a bad comparison.
“I’m not the biggest guy or strongest guy on the ice,” Reichel said. “But I’m a smart guy, I’m a good skater, I like to shoot and that’s my game style.”
The Blackhawks aren't going to rush Reichel's development — or at least they shouldn't. There's a sense of urgency to maximize the current window, but the Blackhawks would feel better about their chances of doing so if Reichel developed at his own pace.
And in two years from now, the Blackhawks are hoping Reichel could be playing on a line with Kirby Dach and Kane.
"If you look at him physically, he's not a small kid," Kelley said. "He's not a really slight kid, but you can see the potential for that body to grow."