Lukas Reichel perfecting details of his game as anticipation of Blackhawks call-up grows
Derek King said he and Kyle Davidson will talk this week about the timeline for Reichel, who tallied six points in his last two AHL games.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Entering the season, the Blackhawks predetermined a schedule for top prospect Lukas Reichel.
‘‘I remember at training camp, they had a plan for him,’’ Hawks interim coach Derek King said. ‘‘Maybe 30-plus games [with Rockford of the American Hockey League] and then maybe bring him up for one or two [NHL games], then have him go back down.’’
That plan was thrown out the window long ago. The people who made it since have been fired, and Reichel has been limited to 20 AHL games by a concussion and COVID-19.
But there’s a growing sense of anticipation that Reichel’s long-awaited first NHL call-up might not be too far away. King said he’ll talk with interim general manager Kyle Davidson about it this week.
‘‘Who knows? He might appear,’’ King said.
Reichel, a 19-year-old forward from Germany, erupted for six points (three goals and three assists) in two games for the IceHogs last week to earn AHL Player of the Week honors. He now has 20 points, including 11 goals, in his 20 games.
But Reichel said he wants to maintain that high level ‘‘consistently over 10 or 15 games,’’ and IceHogs interim coach Anders Sorensen emphasized he’s not a finished product yet.
‘‘The abilities he’s got are obviously lights-out, but there’s part of his game that he’s still got to fine-tune, [including] his play without the puck,’’ Sorensen said. ‘‘He’s getting better. He’s making strides. He’s an extremely smart player and smart person. It’s just a matter of working on it and learning to be a pro every day.’’
In the offensive zone, Reichel is trying to improve at finding open ice — a challenge for European prospects adjusting to smaller North American rinks — and protecting the puck. In the defensive zone, he’s focused on winning puck battles in the corners.
And on faceoffs, he’s working with Hawks development coach Yanic Perreault to familiarize himself with some handy ‘‘tricks,’’ such as using his skates to win the puck — another difference from the European game.
If all goes well, he soon might have to learn what the NHL is like.
‘‘I’m just having fun, and if they call me up, I will be ready,’’ he said with a wide smile. ‘‘If it’s now, soon or — I don’t know — never, I will be ready whenever it’s the time. I’m looking forward to it.’’
Goalie Kevin Lankinen was going to join the Hawks in Columbus. Then he wasn’t. Then he did.
After a roller-coaster 12 days in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, Lankinen hit the ice again for the morning skate Tuesday.
‘‘I was pretty fortunate to not have too many symptoms,’’ Lankinen said. ‘‘I’ve been feeling good coming back, too, getting a couple of skates, being able to work out and get my body and my lungs going. But, most importantly, seeing the puck and being around the guys is huge.’’
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made his fourth consecutive start against the Blue Jackets, but Lankinen said he might be ready to rejoin the rotation Thursday against the Canadiens. King, however, was less committal.
‘‘You could see the guys were happy to see him back,’’ King said. ‘‘He was happy to get out of the house, I’m sure, and just get a good workout today. . . . We’ll just reassess as we go through the week.’’