When the Blackhawks began the season, most of the conversation among fans that wasn’t focused on rookie sensation Connor Bedard was centered around fellow youngster Lukas Reichel. Nearly everyone expected the 21-year-old forward to take a huge jump forward this year, myself included. For a Blackhawks team that dragged themselves through the last month or two of the season last year, he was one of the few bright spots. With another year under his belt, it seemed only logical that Reichel would take a big step forward as a full-time starter.
Throughout the first 22 games of Chicago’s 2023-24 season, however, the opposite has been true. Reichel has two goals and four assists over those matchups, boasting an eye-catching plus-minus of -17. At the beginning of the year, his lack of production could have been attributed to his move to center from his more comfortable wing spot. Since then, however, he’s been moved back to the wing and given a look at a few different line combinations as well as time on the top power-play unit. Still, Reichel just hasn’t been able to find the net.
Before the Blackhawks’ game in Minnesota Sunday afternoon, Reichel’s rough year got a bit worse. The team announced the former first-round pick would be a healthy scratch in the contest. When asked about the decision, head coach Luke Richardson didn’t mince words:
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“I’m sure he’s disappointed, but we need more from him.”– Luke Richardson
The move comes at an interesting time for the Blackhawks, as they’ll be without new acquisition Anthony Beauvillier for the Sunday matinee. He’s encountering some issues in getting his visa, and the team expects him back sometime this week. Chicago has scored just one goal in each of its last two games, and the team has struggled all season to put pucks in the net.
Richardson says the move is more of a wake-up call than anything for Reichel:
“He needs to watch from above tonight and then come back with a little bit of fire, but also regroup mentally so physically he can do his best out there.”– Luke Richardson
If Reichel isn’t able to come back stronger after the time off, it could have huge implications for the young star. His entry-level contract expires at the end of this season. While the Blackhawks initially expected to resign him immediately, they may be having second thoughts soon. Will he be able to turn the season around before it’s too late?
The move is a temporary one, but will likely have massive effects one way or another. When Reichel re-enters the lineup, he could do so with a newfound vigor and play with confidence. On the other hand, being a healthy scratch could destroy any confidence Reichel has left, which would be a big blow to his overall game.