Lukas Reichel survives injury scare, dominates rematch in Blackhawks-Wild prospect series
The Hawks’ prospect team split the two-game series, winning the rematch 5-0, thanks to four assists from Reichel.
It looked concerning from afar, but Blackhawks prospect Lukas Reichel knew the hit into the boards hadn’t caused a concussion.
He had suffered a real concussion last November and missed significant time from it. He knew this didn’t feel like that.
So while Reichel still was pulled out of the Hawks’ prospect exhibition game Friday against the Wild for a while to complete a concussion test, he was able to return for the third period, then played all of the rematch Sunday. And he looked very good.
‘‘[I had better] positioning, better timing,’’ Reichel said Sunday. ‘‘I feel like I had more puck touches than last game. When you get going and make you plays, you feel good about yourself.’’
The Hawks’ top prospect practically was playing a different game than most of the other players on the ice, even though most of them were notable prospects with intriguing potential of their own.
Reichel had four assists in the Hawks’ 5-0 victory Sunday, helping them avenge a 5-2 loss Friday in which the Wild scored five unanswered goals after Reichel and Colton Dach left with injuries.
‘‘[Reichel] took his game to another level today,’’ said Rockford coach Anders Sorensen, who oversaw the prospect team. ‘‘He looks a little bit stronger, a little more comfortable within traffic and with contact than he did last year. I was happy to see that progress.’’
With both teams made up of prospects pulled from throughout the world and after only two days of practice together before the series, the games lacked structure and cohesion. Skill levels varied widely. But that allowed the best prospects to shine even brighter, and the Hawks had to be pleased with what they saw.
Reichel maneuvered through defensemen effortlessly, including a beautiful rush through three Wild prospects and in on goal Sunday that created a tap-in by Gavin Hayes. His vision and ability to sense a half-second before anyone else where to go and where to put the puck were on full display.
Having added 15 pounds of muscle this summer, he was also harder to knock off the puck and more of a contender for loose pucks.
‘‘I can protect the puck way better,’’ he said. ‘‘I win a little more battles, too. Especially one-on-ones and in the corners, I feel more comfortable.’’
Defenseman Kevin Korchinski, the lone one of the Hawks’ three 2022 first-round picks in attendance, showed off his own poise and vision. He regularly made perfectly placed, perfectly thought-out breakout passes through the neutral zone.
‘‘I really like [Korchinski’s] game,’’ Sorensen said. ‘‘[He has] really good instincts, both defensively and offensively. He wants the puck. He’s got a quick step, and he wants to get in there.’’
Cole Guttman, signed this summer as a free agent out of the University of Denver, and Samuel Savoie, drafted in the third round this summer, were noticeable for their scrappiness and tenacity.
Sorensen mentioned Michal Teply, Josiah Slavin and Evan Barratt as other forwards who made progress during the week.
Jaxson Stauber, signed last spring out of Providence, struggled in a tough goaltending matchup Friday against Wild star Jesper Wallstedt. Stauber stopped 27 of 32 shots, and Rockford goalie Mitchell Weeks posted a 37-save shutout Sunday.
The Hawks did endure some poor injury luck beyond Reichel. Dach suffered an actual concussion, and Paul Ludwinski, a second-round pick this summer, left early Sunday with an upper-body injury after an inadvertent collision at center ice.
And while the prospect team battled, the Hawks’ NHL group held several informal captain’s practices last week at Fifth Third Arena.
Jonathan Toews led the group, which also featured Connor Murphy and Jujhar Khaira. That’s an indication Murphy and Khaira should be healthy for training camp, which begins Wednesday, after ending last season on injured reserve.