As the new year rolls in, a few Chicago Blackhawks players will be put to the test. In the upcoming weeks, they will be judged on a variety of stages as their roles in this organization become increasingly more important.
Chicago Blackhawks Young Players Begin To Shine
The 2020 first-round draft pick has strung together an impressive season in the American Hockey League (AHL) that earned him a call-up from the Blackhawks last Wednesday. The German phenom made his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens that following Friday. As a part of his developmental plan, he played only two games with Chicago. He was sent back down to the AHL for the likely remainder of the season. This stint was supposed to give him a taste of what he will face in the near future.
Lukas Reichel has accumulated 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 20 games for the Rockford IceHogs this season. This notable performance was culminated by a production-heavy January week. After COVID-19 protocols plagued the Rockford team in late December, Reichel came back after two weeks. He impressed, tallying six points (three goals, three assists) in two games. He became the first IceHog to be named AHL player of the week since 2017.
Reichel did not get on the scoresheet in his two games with Chicago, but they were both full of positives. His high-end play-making abilities were on full display, and they nearly secured him his first NHL goal. Following his debut, he said, “I played a solid game, and I’m happy with my first game.” Blackhawks head coach Derek King was also content with his performance: “I really liked his pace of play. He can skate. […] He pushes the D back and frees up a lot of space for other guys. You see him dish over to Kane. You look at Kane when he gets the puck, and there’s nobody in his face.” At the 2020 NHL draft, Reichel revealed his favourite player growing up was Patrick Kane, so things came full circle for him as he saw his name on the first line next to him.
The Massachusetts native will be placed on the largest stage at the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The Blackhawks 2020 second-round draft pick has had quite an eventful year. Drew Commesso started his sophomore season off at Boston University before packing his bags for the IIHF’s 2022 U20 World Juniors tournament. Here, he was expected to be the starting netminder for the reigning champs: Team USA. Last season, he was “devastated” after contracting COVID-19 just prior to the beginning of the tournament, so this year was going to be his redemption. Unfortunately for Commesso, the tournament was shortly cancelled after a surge of positive cases. In his one and only game for the US, he demonstrated a lot of poise and the ability to stay focused during slow stretches to win 3-2 against Slovakia.
However, the young goalie now has his priorities set on a bigger task: the Olympics. Commesso was a part of the 15 current NCAA players named to Team USA’s 25 man roster. He will be joining four of his World Juniors teammates as he battles in Group A against Canada, China, and Germany.
Commesso has played 20 games (9-8-3) for Boston University this season and has amassed a 2.59 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. As Marc-Andre Fleury nears the end of his hall of fame career, the Blackhawks organization will one day look to Commesso as their guy.
Coupled with all of the other budding players in Chicago’s organization, it may be difficult to tout Alex DeBrincat as a “young” player. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old has a lot of seasons left ahead of him. He will turn some heads at this year’s upcoming NHL All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. This will be DeBrincat’s first all-star appearance and the first time Patrick Kane has not represented Chicago since 2008.
This decision is not surprising considering DeBrincat is having one of his most goal-productive seasons to date. In 38 games he has produced 32 points (23 goals, nine assists). This puts him fifth in the league overall in goal-scoring and on pace for 49.6 goals. As Patrick Kane—currently on a seven-game point streak—continues to heat up, that 50-goal threshold does not seem unattainable.
In the 2016 NHL entry draft, the Blackhawks were lucky to scoop up DeBrincat in the second round. Statistically, he ranks third among goals (142 goals) and fourth among points (261 points) for that draft year. For goals, he only sits behind Auston Matthews (224 goals) and Patrik Laine (155 goals). However, it is important to note DeBrincat has played at least 40 fewer games than both of them. It will be fun to watch him showcase his talent with the likes of the Central Division’s other star forwards: Nathan MacKinnon, Kirill Kaprizov, and Kyle Connor.
Embed from Getty Images