Although Blackhawks training camp doesn’t start until Thursday, the team played its de facto first games of the 2021-22 season this weekend: two prospect scrimmages against the Wild in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Hawks blew third-period leads in both games, losing 3-2 on Friday and 4-3 in a shootout Sunday. But the experience gained, lessons learned and progress made by the prospects far outweighed the results.
“Everybody looks real good,” Rockford IceHogs coach Derek King, who led the Hawks’ prospects, said Thursday. “Nobody is standing out where it’s like, ‘Wow, what a big difference between him and the rest of the group.’ Which is a positive thing.”
Top prospect Lukas Reichel wore a Hawks jersey for the first time and looked like one of the best players on the ice throughout the weekend, despite being only 19 years old and largely unfamiliar with North American rink dimensions.
Most notably, Reichel did so at center. The young German forward was drafted in the 2020 first round as a winger but shifted to center for Eisbaren Berlin last season, opening the possibility that he could project as an NHL center, too.
Reichel will continue to occupy the spotlight at training camp, where he’ll look to prove the Hawks need to make room for him on their opening roster.
Michal Teply, a 2019 fourth-rounder who surged up prospect rankings in 2019-20 but didn’t stand out during his first IceHogs season in 2021, scored twice in the two games, including a go-ahead goal Sunday that was assisted by Reichel.
Andrei Altybarmakian, Evan Barratt and D.J. Busdeker scored the Hawks’ other goals. In the net, newly signed Swedish prospect Arvid Soderblom started Friday, and Cale Morris and Tom Aubrun split the game Sunday.
The Hawks’ top two 2021 draft picks — first-rounder Nolan Allan and second-rounder Colton Dach — also made their organizational debuts in the scrimmages.
The Hawks scheduled the games against the Wild to replicate the annual Traverse City prospects tournament, which they did not participate in this year. The Wild prospects will visit Chicago next year.