The Chicago Blackhawks held an intrasquad scrimmage at Fifth Third Arena on Monday, and it wasn't hard to identify the two best players on the ice.
Let me preface first by saying it was a brief scrimmage. It was only two periods, 13 minutes each; some lines only logged three shifts. Others had closer to five or six. It's because there were five lines and four pairings on each team. Tuesday's scrimmage is likely to be divided into three groups so everyone can get more playing time.
That said, it was an encouraging showing by two of the organization's top prospects. Connor Bedard and Lukas Reichel each scored a pair of goals, some of which would've made the NHL's highlight reel if they happened in a game that mattered.
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"He looked really good," Bedard said of Reichel after his team's 3-2 win. "Obviously a couple of really nice goals, so it was fun for me to get to watch him."
"Really good hockey player," Reichel said of Bedard. "He's so young. He's 18. You've got to think he's got so much pressure, like media and everything. He handled it so good. [At] 18, it's so hard to do it, but he's really mature about it."
Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said Reichel's "confidence level of quicker decision-making" has been noticeable. Bedard's drive and intelligence has stood out to Richardson as well, to go along with all the other tools he has.
"They were good," Richardson said of Bedard and Reichel. "I thought it was a good start, and looking forward to seeing more of it."
Bedard and Reichel trading goals reminded me a bit of the old days, when Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and others would try to out-do the other, even in practices and scrimmages. It was a healthy international competition and part of the reason why those teams were so great.
Reichel felt that, too.
"Yeah, you saw it today," Reichel said. "I scored and he scored, and we switched it up. It's fun. We compete out there and it makes it fun. It's a scrimmage ... but yeah, we always try to play our best way."
Bedard has stolen all the headlines this offseason — rightfully so — but if Reichel takes that next step in his first full NHL season and solidifies himself as a potential top-six piece of the future, what an exciting thought if you're a Chicago fan.
Whether Reichel stays at center permanently or not, the Blackhawks are going to lean on him and Bedard to be offensive difference-makers. And if the two of them continue to push each other to be better in all areas even in practice, it will rub off on everyone around them and help elevate the entire group.
"Seems like a really nice guy who loves the game, loves to work," Bedard said of Reichel. "It’s pretty exciting. I think all fans should be really excited about him. I know everyone in the room knows he’s going to be a huge contributor this year."