Hawks GM Davidson explains decision to reassign Reichel originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Blackhawks sent Lukas Reichel back to Rockford on Friday, and let's just say a portion of the fanbase wasn't crazy about the move. He had an impressive three-game stint in the NHL and looked like a different player.
Before Saturday's game against Seattle, Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson explained the organization's decision to reassign Reichel after praising the 20-year-old prospect and the steps he's made in his development.
"He was excellent and it's a testament to the hard work that he's put in, it's a testament to the work that our coaches have put in with him," Davidson said. "He's done everything we've asked of him and worked really hard at the areas that we wanted him to work at.
"Moving forward, I think it's valuable for him to go down and play center, be a go-to guy, a leader on the team that's going to play meaningful hockey down the stretch. That's not to say that he's not going to get opportunities here, because I think that is valuable and injuries occur and we're not going to hold that from him.
"There's also other players in Rockford that we would like to give exposure to the NHL as well because they, just like Lukas and others, have taken some really, really positive steps in their development and we want to reward that. But it's all about experiencing being a go-to player on a good team in a good league. The AHL is the second-best league we have in hockey and to be able to put some of our prospects in leadership roles, in key roles on that team and in that league is extremely valuable and that's something we really want to do again moving forward."
You can absolutely make a case that Reichel is one of the better options for the Blackhawks right now. I don't think anyone is arguing that. You could also say he deserved a longer look, even if it's not a permanent spot, and I tend to agree.
The Blackhawks, more than anything, want Reichel to play meaningful hockey and experience better situations in the AHL with the IceHogs, who are legitimately one of the best teams and could make a deep run in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
"Let’s call a spade a spade, we’re chasing most games here," Davidson said. "And I don’t necessarily think that’s conducive to extremely positive development. There’s great situations in Rockford where our young players have to go out and defend a lead and defend close games, and they get opportunities to play and score and come back from tight games against other really good teams. They’re just different situations right now, so we have to take that into account, too."
The Blackhawks have said from Day 1 that they're going to be patient with their prospects, considering they've rushed too many of them to the NHL over the last few years. That means using the AHL to their full advantage and working with them hands-on.
The Blackhawks don't seem too worried about Reichel's confidence, and whether his going up and down could affect him in the bigger picture.
"It's always a consideration," Davidson said. "That's why we make sure that they understand the big picture and there's a roadmap there and there has been from the start of the year and make sure that when you're making decisions that they understand them.
"As we've talked about in the past with players, it's not their job to see the big picture but it's your job to help them understand and walk them through why you're doing things and why you think it's best long-term, and that's something we've done with not only Lukas but with a lot of our prospects that, you know what, they're knocking on the door.
"Some of them, could they play in the NHL? They probably could. But it's a question of what's best for their development long term and being in situations that we can provide them in Rockford on a very good team in a very good league, I think, is something we really, really value.
"And then their exposure to our coaches every single day, that's not something you get very often in hockey development when, if they're in junior or Europe or college, they have their own coaches and you can only see them so much. The AHL is truly the only time in development along the way to the NHL that you have hands-on development opportunities every single day, and so that's something we're trying to take advantage of."
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