The Blackhawks had many options Tuesday night for the 17th pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. But the player they chose — left wing Lukas Reichel — felt like the most fitting selection all along.
A native of Nuremburg, Germany, Reichel, 18, grew up watching and falling in love with the Hawks during their Stanley Cup years.
“When I was young, my favorite player was always Patrick Kane, and my favorite team was always Chicago,” Reichel said via Zoom from a Berlin restaurant after he was picked. “Now I’m a Blackhawk, too. That’s so awesome.”
His uncle, Robert, played 830 NHL games from 1990 to 2004, and his father also played hockey. They were able to introduce him from a young age to the training and mindset it would take to eventually reach the NHL level.
Most incredible of all, Reichel then experienced that level firsthand last September. In one of his first professional games with Eisbaren Berlin, one of the top teams in Germany’s top men’s league, he faced off against the Hawks themselves in an exhibition game.
“I played against Chicago,” he said. “I know what’s going on there. The game was a great experience for me.”
After the Hawks left town, Reichel went on to enjoy a fantastic rookie season with Eisbaren while playing against much older competition, scoring 12 goals and 24 points in 42 games.
He also caught Hawks scouting director Mark Kelley’s eye with his play during the World Junior Championships, tallying two goals and three assists in seven games for the German national team during that tournament.
Reichel impressed scouts with his excellent vision and well-rounded skill set. His quickness, as well as his passing and shooting ability, improved to first-round caliber. And in a draft class loaded with offense-first forwards, Reichel stood out as one of the few who also excelled in the defensive zone.
“The thing that stands out in his game is the hockey IQ [and] his ability to make plays,” Kelley said. “Because of his IQ [and] his ability to play with skill players, we think he has the potential to be an impact player and play in the top six.”
Plus, Reichel developed plenty of confidence to match his potential. The first question he was asked in Tuesday’s teleconference call was which NHL player he compared himself with. He didn’t undersell with his answer.
“My game style is like Elias Pettersson,” Reichel said, referencing the Canucks star who has scored 66 points in each of his first two NHL seasons. “I’m not the biggest guy, not the strongest guy on the ice, but I’m a smart guy, I’m a good skater. I like to shoot.”
Reichel is working on the size and strength shortcoming. With help from coaches in Berlin, he gained six kilograms — equivalent to 13 pounds — over the summer.
He’s officially listed at 6-foot, 172 pounds, but he may now actually be 185.
“If you look at him physically, he’s not a small kid, he’s not really a slight kid, but you can see the potential for that body to grow,” Kelley said.
His exercise routine will have to wait until later this week, though.
Throughout the night Tuesday, Reichel celebrated the draft at a restaurant with his family and teammates. When the pick finally came in around 3 a.m. local time in Berlin, he was awestruck.
“It was an unreal moment,” he said with a massive grin. “I can’t believe it right now.”