The Lukas Reichel era in Chicago has officially arrived -- at least for a short while.
The 2020 first-round pick was recalled to the team's taxi squad on Wednesday morning, the first call up in his first season in North America. Interim head coach Derek King confirmed after practice that Reichel is expected to make his NHL debut on Thursday night against Montreal, but cautioned that this call up is only for a few games to give the the 19-year-old forward a taste of big-league action.
"The big thing coming into this (season), we knew we're going to stick to our game plan," King explained, "to let him get as many games as he can down in Rockford and then eventually bring him up for a couple games and see how he does and see what we have here and see where he's at. Most likely will be right back down to Rockford (after this stint) to finish and play some more hockey games. We've got to stick to this game plan.
"He's played well down there. He's one of our highly-skilled prospects coming up and we want to do it right," King continued. "There's been years of seeing players get called up early, started too early and they don't end up finishing with your team. Here, this is a chance to do it right by him and I think the process is going to be key and I think it's doing well."
Video: Reichel video breakdown with Coyne Schofield
Reichel's NHL chance comes on the heels of his best week yet with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. On Friday night, he had two goals and two assists in an 8-0 thrashing of the Chicago Wolves at home. Just 24 hours later in Milwaukee, Reichel added another goal and an assist to his count in a 6-2 win over the Admirals. The weekend performance earned him AHL Player of the Week honors on Monday and brought his season total to 20 points (11G, 9A) in 20 games this season, Rockford's highest-scoring player by seven points.
In speaking to the Rockford media on Tuesday, Reichel was obviously pleased with the two games, but kept the bigger picture in mind.
"It was two games. We played really good in those two games, but I want to play consistently over like 10-15 games," he said, later explaining that consistency would hopefully lead to an NHL call up at some point. "I think it gives me a lot of confidence now with those two games and I just want to keep going like that."
Video: Training Ground: Lukas Reichel
Judging by Wednesday's practice, he could get a prime chance alongside a pair of skilled players in his debut, centering a line with Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome at Fifth Third Arena.
"I know that he's been doing well in Rockford and seems like he has the ability to play with a lot of speed up the middle, which I've always enjoyed in my career, and has the ability to make a lot of plays too," Kane said. "Looking forward to the opportunity to play with him, try help him along here.
"As a young player, there's always going to be certain bumps in the road and consistency is always a key when you try to establish yourself as a player, but just try to help him along and for him, I think the most important thing is just playing his game. He's a young kid, but he's fast and he can play with speed and I think it can be an effective line."