Lukas Reichel will officially make the Atlantic leap and join the Blackhawks’ organization next season.
Reichel signed his three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Hawks on Wednesday, shortly after Germany’s run at the World Championships ended Sunday — as the Chicago Sun-Times reported last month he would.
His new contract carries a $925,000 cap hit through 2024.
“Lukas made tremendous strides in his second year as a professional,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “The game appeared to slow down for him this past season, which allowed his play-making skills to be on full display. Bringing him over to North America is the logical next step for his continued development and we’re excited to be able to add such a young, dynamic player to our forward group.”
The 19-year-old forward — the Hawks’ top prospect and 17th overall pick in last year’s draft — followed up an excellent season with Eisbaren Berlin with another strong performance in the World Championships.
Germany went 4-3 in the group stage and eliminated Switzerland in the quarterfinals before losing to Finland in the semifinals and to the U.S. in the bronze-medal game. Reichel had six points (two goals and four assists) in nine games, good for third on the team.
Reichel will arrive in North America next season having bulked up to 176 pounds (and counting) and showing potential to transition to a center. His Berlin coach, Serge Aubin, moved him to center for much of this past season and saw him thrive there, scoring 27 points in 38 regular-season games and five points in nine postseason games en route to the German league title.
“I used him as a [first]-line player,” Aubin said last month. “His skating this year was even better than last year. He’s really an elite skater. And his decision-making was also better. We could see a lot of growth.”
Reichel’s agent, Allain Roy, described Reichel’s development as like “a boy playing in a men’s league” in 2019-20 versus “a man against men” in 2020-21. Roy also said in May he and Bowman expected to settle Reichel’s first contract after the World Championships concluded, and he wasted no time.
Whether Reichel will start the 2021-22 season immediately playing in the NHL remains to be determined, though. He’ll be given every opportunity to prove he should stick with the Hawks, but his acclimation could be aided by at least a couple months in the AHL.
Competition will be fierce for NHL roster spots, too, as the Hawks currently are staring down a logjam of forwards with incoming youngsters Reichel and Henrik Borgstrom only adding to the overload.
NOTES: The Hawks let their draft rights to Roope Laavainen and Cole Moberg expire on June 1. Their rights to Josh Ess will expire Aug. 15.
—- The Rockford IceHogs re-signed forwards Dylan McLaughlin and Chris Wilkie to AHL contracts for 2021-22. McLaughlin, 26, was the AHL affiliate’s leading scorer this past season with 22 points in 28 games. Wilkie, 24, was fourth on the team with 13 points.