Blackhawks’ Lukas Reichel building up strength, weight through summer training

Reichel, up from 170 to roughly 185 pounds, should be able to better protect the puck and win battles next season as he evolves into a full-time NHL forward.

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Blackhawks forward Lukas Reichel skates with the puck.

Lukas Reichel has worked this summer on getting stronger, hoping to fend off opposing players better next season.

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Lukas Reichel and the Blackhawks entered this summer with a plan.

As a 19-year-old last season, Reichel’s skill, vision and confidence were regularly on display. But his lack of strength was also evident, and it prevented him from translating those positives into production: he finished with just one point, an assist, in the first 11 games of his Hawks career.

So heading toward his 20-year-old season — and likely his breakthrough season as a full-time NHL forward — Reichel has worked hard to gain weight, get stronger and do everything in between.

He has split his summer between Chicago and Berlin, but he’s currently two weeks into a four-week extended session of workouts at Fifth Third Arena with Hawks strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman.

“I don’t think it’s any secret, if you watched some of his clips...that he could be stronger,” Goodman said. “[We’re] giving him a strong lower-half base, but also [making him] strong upper body-wise — so he can fend or hold guys off and be diligent when protecting the puck down low.”

Added Reichel himself: “I’m still young, so I can improve everything, but the focus is more to get stronger but not lose my quickness on the ice. I don’t want to be too heavy, but I’ve definitely got to get stronger.”

One tangible marker of Reichel’s growth is his weight, which he said has increased to roughly 185 pounds (84 kilograms). Last year, he was listed at 6-0, 170 pounds and looked just as lanky.

A more personalized, specific nutrition plan is part of what has enabled that weight gain. Coming from Germany, Reichel’s eating habits were not terrible but “not the best,” Goodman said. That has changed now, thanks to the addition of relatively simple things like post-workout recovery shakes.

While gaining that weight, however, Reichel has also been put through Goodman’s famous or infamous — depending on who’s describing it — training program. Improving his fitness, to allow him to handle a full 82-game schedule for the first time in his life, has also been a priority. His times and weights with various exercises in the gym have been monitored closely.

“To not only reach those [goals] but also give him challenges where he can’t reach it yet, so he has something he has to work towards, that has been really effective,” Goodman said. “He has gravitated towards it pretty well.”

That should make training camp in September a less abrupt transition for him.

“You don’t want a person to gain five or 10 pounds if they haven’t really moved at all...over the course of time they’ve been gaining it,” Goodman said. “We want to make sure he’s moving and doing things that are athletic while he’s gaining some weight. So that when he goes out on the ice, he’s acclimatized to it and...isn’t going to get sore.”

On the ice, meanwhile, Reichel has worked with Hawks-affiliated trainer Brian Keane in particular on protecting the puck and sensing where pressure is coming from.

As a rookie, Reichel thrived in transition — when he had plenty of open ice into which to skate or pass the puck — but struggled when opponents closed in. He was easily pushed off the puck in tight spaces and board battles.

That wasn’t surprising given his inexperience and background. He mentioned the change from Germany’s larger rinks requiring some adjustment, for example. But if he’s to translate his immense, immediate AHL success — 57 points in 56 games for Rockford last year, ranking fifth among all AHL rookies — to the NHL level, he’ll need to significantly improve in those situations.

That’s certainly his and the Hawks’ shared objective for this coming season.

It’s not guaranteed he’ll spend all year on the NHL roster — the Hawks probably don’t want him toiling away on a tanking team if he’s not playing on the first or second line with decent linemates — but he’ll be given every opportunity to prove that he should. And he believes he’s ready to seize it.

“It was my goal last season, too, but definitely this season, I want to play in the NHL the whole season,” Reichel said. “It’s definitely exciting. All the young players right now in Chicago, we all have a great chance to make the team and get some more minutes and be part of the rebuild.”

Offseason updates

  • The Hawks signed prospect forward Jalen Luypen, a 2021 seventh-round draft pick, to a three-year entry-level contract. Luypen broke out last season with 64 points in 66 games for WHL Edmonton. General manager Kyle Davidson said in a statement that Luypen’s “overall game has made big strides” and his “strong work ethic is what we’re looking for in our prospects.”
  • The Hawks announced their preseason schedule, which starts Sept. 27 at home against the Blues — six days after training camp opens Sept. 21. They’ll host the Red Wings on Oct. 1 and face the Wild on Oct. 2 at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. They’ll also play road games against all three aforementioned teams ahead of the Oct. 12 regular-season opener at the Avalanche.
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