With Patrick Kane expected to return on Saturday from his lower-body injury, the Blackhawks have reassigned forward prospect Lukas Reichel to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, the team announced Friday afternoon.
Reichel looked like a different player during his three-game stint with the Blackhawks, especially in the first two games. He had his best NHL showing last Friday in a 2-0 win over Arizona and followed it up with a three-point performance (one goal, two assists) in a 4-3 overtime win over Calgary on Sunday.
After the victory on Sunday, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said he expected Reichel to get an extended look with the NHL club, even when Kane returns. But he admitted he hadn’t spoken to GM Kyle Davidson and the management group about the plan beyond that game yet, so it didn’t seem like a concrete stance.
Reichel going back to Rockford is a move that’s consistent with the organization’s long-term developmental approach for him—and others, for that matter. The Blackhawks want their prospects to overripen, and recent history shows they’ve rushed their young kids to the NHL too quickly in the past (Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach immediately come to mind).
The argument against sending Reichel back is that he’s earned a longer look in the NHL because of the way he’s played. I would have liked to see him stay a little longer and at least be given an opportunity to play on the first power-play unit, no doubt.
But I’ve always felt Reichel should spend the majority of the season in Rockford, where he could continue honing his craft away from the NHL spotlight and, perhaps most importantly, get his puck touches. It doesn’t do him any good if he’s playing in the NHL and he’s chasing the puck the whole time against better competition.
My stance might be a little different if the IceHogs weren’t one of the best teams in the AHL with deep postseason aspirations. But they are, and there’s value in Reichel being the go-to player for a team like that and playing meaningful hockey in a more controlled environment.
I think Reichel’s recent three-game stint with the Blackhawks, if anything, should give him the confidence that he can, in fact, produce at the NHL level and be an impact-type player. The numbers hadn’t translated from the AHL to the NHL in his first 12 games, which could have instilled some doubt.
That’s no longer the case, and I imagine Reichel will head back to Rockford feeling looser and in a much better mindset.
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