Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson: Lukas Reichel is ‘NHL-ready player'

Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson: Lukas Reichel is ‘NHL-ready player' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

One of the top storylines going into training camp in 2022 was whether or not Lukas Reichel would be ready for a full-time role with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks, at the time, felt there were still areas for him to improve upon, which is why he started the season in the AHL. I also think they wanted to shield him from the NHL to some degree, considering the Blackhawks were going to be one of the worst teams in the league. They needed him to get his puck touches, and he was going to get more of those in Rockford than with the Blackhawks.

In his season-opening press conference on Tuesday, Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson didn't leave the door open about where Reichel would play this year. He's going to be a full-time player with the Blackhawks from the start.

"Lukas Reichel did everything we asked of him last year in terms of the little things we asked him to improve on, to the point at the end of the year — and as we walk into training camp this year — he’s an NHL ready player," Davidson said. "Those are the steps you want your young players to take."

Reichel, 21, registered 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 23 games with the Blackhawks last season after recording only one point in 11 games the year prior. He noticeably looked like a different player last season and got better with each call-up.

Perhaps the more notable note is that Reichel will open training camp at center, not the wing. I think, long-term, he is better suited on the wing than he is at center, but I don't mind the idea of giving him a look at center first. After all, that's where he played most of his games in Rockford.

Plus, even if the Blackhawks decide to bump Reichel to the wing at some point, injuries are going to occur and it's important to have guys who can play both positions if needed. Reichel is one of those players.

"He's a confident, offensive player, plays with some significant speed," Davidson said. "We're looking for him to carry that through and keep providing the offense we saw last year, both here with the Blackhawks and down in Rockford.

"But as an NHL center, there's defensive responsibilities that you'll need to execute. And, so again, any young player, peaks and valleys that [we’ll] help him work through instruction, education. I know over the summer, he was working on faceoffs; different animal though when you get into the NHL, and against some players that are specialists in that area, so I'm sure there'll be some growth areas for him down the middle. But we wouldn't try it out if we didn't think he could succeed there."

Click here to follow the Blackhawks Talk Podcast.