Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Blackhawks Finally Make Dooming Decision On Outlook Of Former First-Round Pick

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When the NHL regular season began just a few short months ago, nearly every bit of the hype around the 2023-24 Blackhawks that wasn’t focused on rookie Connor Bedard was surrounding 21-year-old forward Lukas Reichel. In his first extended stint with the Blackhawks last season, Reichel notched 15 points in 23 games while displaying impressive offensive skill, sparking quite a buzz in Chicago going into his first full season in the NHL.

An expected storybook season, though, has been anything but. Reichel has been notably absent throughout the year and hasn’t made the exciting plays that were initially the reason he stood out. The young forward has just three goals and seven assists in 50 games this season, with many of those assists being secondary ones where he didn’t make much of an impact on the play.

The Blackhawks have tried everything to jumpstart Reichel’s season. After he started the year as the team’s second-line center, he was eventually moved to wing, a move that was figured by many to be the obvious solution to his lack of production. When he wasn’t able to get on the board as a top-six forward, Reichel was moved to a bottom-six role with less ice time. After it became apparent that those moves, plus extra work with Chicago’s coaching staff, weren’t sparking any improvement, Reichel was made a healthy scratch numerous times, including the last two games.

Once he was sat down for the second game in a row, it became evident the Blackhawks were nearing a more long-term decision, and such a move was announced Sunday morning:

The decision to send Reichel to the IceHogs is by no means a death sentence. With the Blackhawks at the bottom of the NHL standings, the team doesn’t have much to lose by giving their young skater big-league minutes at the end of the season. With Reichel’s contract expiring at the end of the season, there’s little doubt he’ll get another look for the Blackhawks eventually.

The move likely wasn’t an easy one for Chicago to make – the NHL squad isn’t exactly overflowing with talent, and Reichel’s skill has been more than apparent at times in his young career. But as the season wore on, and Reichel sank deeper and deeper into his current slump, it became clear that a move to the AHL is now the best thing for his development. It’s a chance for Reichel to return to a place where he’s dominated for much of his career (108 points in 111 games with Rockford), regain confidence, and relearn how to produce offensively.

Still, Reichel’s demotion isn’t exactly the best look as he aims to acquire a new contract, or at least increase his trade value for the Blackhawks. Although he hasn’t been productive at all, going without his offensive skill set for at least a handful of games will certainly be noticeable.

With Reichel’s roster spot freed up, Anthony Beauvillier is expected to return to the lineup for the first time since January 3. After suffering a wrist injury, Beauvillier has spent the past six weeks on the injured list. He’ll likely return to the same top-six role in which he’s spent much of the season.

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