In a business that relies on storylines and clicks, this is the talking point du jour. When should our latest and most beautiful boy, Lukas Reichel, get a call up to the varsity. There's been a lot of hemming and hawing about burning a year off of his ELC. Is this rushing him? Do the Blackhawks have comparable players on the team right now? That last one is a question I commented on back in September when he initially was sent down
Well now we have run the experiment on the rest of the roster through 15 games. The Blackhawks have a pretty good idea about what they have up front at this point. They've struggled mightily in 5-on-5 to score and maintain possession. That has gotten better under Derek King, but it's an area that the Blackhawks NEED to improve. Part of that is coaching. Part of that is just pure talent. The Blackhawks last game saw Khaira playing in the top 6. Mike Hardman and Borgstrom flanking Strome on the 3rd line. Kurashev was on the 4th line and Reese Johnson was the opposite wing. That is 5 wingers who are the definition of "fine". You don't hate that they are out there, but, like...it'd be nice to have impactful guys in a few of those spots. Hagel and Tyler Johnson should be returning to the lineup soon and that is good, but I don't think we've seen anything from Tyler Johnson so far that would make him a slam dunk to be better than Reichel.
I am not ready to give up on the Blackhawks. Firing Colliton and going on an immediate run made me feel like I was right to think they were were a wild card team on paper before the season started. If Reichel can help you win then you need to have him in the lineup.
Reichel can skate. He is skilled. He is responsible for a first year kid in North America by all accounts. He's great on the forecheck and his brain is real nice. We saw flashes in the preseason and he has been getting better and more productive at the AHL level. If they can infuse their top 6 with a player who is an upgrade then they should roll the dice and make a push before the race is done for good. They can always send him back down if it is bumpy.
If Reichel is what he looked like in the preseason+AHL time then his game really does perfectly compliment the big club and would allow the Hawks to have a lot of balance in their top 9
The Blackhawks can send Hardman, Kurashev, or both down to Rockford along with Reese Johnson when the team is healthy. Reichel can give them a shot in the arm and allow for Hagel and Johnson to really compliment Strome's game. Everyone would be "slotted" properly in the lineup. Reichel would be "insulated" by playing Toews and Kubalik. All he'd have to do is just play his game.
The hole the Blackhawks dug themselves in October makes this an all-hands-on-deck situation. No stone left unturned and it's time to turn over the big German stone. If Reichel can get it done then the Hawks are better for it. If he can't, well, it was still a worthwhile experiment as the Hawks try to claw their way back into the playoff picture.
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