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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Ben Pope

Lukas Reichel survives injury scare, dominates rematch in Blackhawks-Wild prospect series

The Blackhawks faced the Wild in two prospect games at Fifth Third Arena this weekend. (Ben Pope/Sun-Times)

It looked concerning from afar, but Lukas Reichel knew the hit into the boards hadn’t caused a concussion.

He’d suffered a real concussion last November — and missed significant time from it. He knew this didn’t feel like that.

So while Reichel was still pulled out of the Blackhawks’ prospect exhibition game Friday against the Wild for a period to complete a concussion test, he was able to return for the third period and then play all of Sunday’s rematch. 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 was practically playing a different game than most of the other players on the ice — even though most of them were notable prospects with intriguing potential in their own rights.

He tallied four assists in the Hawks’ 5-0 win Sunday, avenging a 5-2 loss Friday in which the Wild scored five unanswered goals after Reichel and Colton Dach exited with injuries and took air out of the Hawks’ sails.

“[Reichel] took his game to another level today,” said Rockford IceHogs 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 composed of prospects pulled from throughout the world, with only two days of practice together before the weekend series, the games weren’t full of structure or cohesion. Skill levels varied widely. But that allowed the best prospects present to shine even brighter, and for the Hawks, they 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 Gavin Hayes tap-in. 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 1-on-1s and in the corners, I feel more comfortable.”

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 particularly made progress during the course of the week.

Jaxson Stauber, signed last spring out of Providence, struggled Friday in a tough goaltending matchup against Wild star Jesper Wallstedt; Stauber ultimately saved 27 of 32 shots against. Rockford goalie Mitchell Weeks posted a 37-save shutout Sunday.

The Hawks did endure some poor injury luck beyond Reichel, though. Dach suffered an actual concussion. Paul Ludwinski, a second-round pick this summer, left early Sunday with an upper-body injury after an inadvertent collision at center ice.

While the prospect team battled, the Hawks’ NHL group also held several informal captain’s practices at Fifth Third Arena this week. Jonathan Toews led the group, which also included Connor Murphy and Jujhar Khaira — indicating they should be healthy for training camp (which begins Wednesday) after ending last season on injured reserve.

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