Going into training camp of his first full NHL season, Lukas Reichel opened as a center, where he had been developing in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs for the last few years. I've never minded that idea in the big picture, because playing center forced him to enhance his two-way game.
But with zero points through nine NHL games this season, I'm ready to say it's time for the Blackhawks to move Reichel back to the wing.
It doesn't necessarily have to be for good, even though I think the wing is where he's better suited long-term. It just has to be for now, at the very least. And it should probably be on Connor Bedard's wing, but that's a topic for a different day.
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It's easy to forget this because he's been listed as a center ever since coming to North America, but the Blackhawks drafted Reichel as a winger. Left wing, to be exact. It was Reichel's team in Germany after he was drafted that decided to try him out at center and he pleasantly surprised them with a strong season at that position.
Reichel's sample size in the NHL is starting to grow, and he's struggled to produce offense as a center. The same can't be said for when he plays on the wing, his natural position.
In the 19 games he appeared in after the trade deadline last season, Reichel registered six goals and six assists for 12 points, which ranked second on the team over that span. That doesn't include his three-point outing on Jan. 8 against Calgary, where he played on the left side with Max Domi and Philipp Kurashev at the time.
Playing on the wing allows Reichel to do what he does best, and that's create offense. It's evident he's more comfortable there.
I don't think pulling the trigger on the Reichel center experiment for the time being would affect his confidence. I think it would actually free him up and allow him to focus on impacting the game in the way he knows how.
Nothing is more important this season than to see growth from their top prospects like Bedard and Reichel. They need to be put in the best position to succeed, if nothing else for confidence reasons.
Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson recently said "there's no timeline" on how long Reichel's rope is at center and that "it needs time and it needs reps."
I wonder if Monday's ugly 8-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes will force the Blackhawks to reconsider.
Richardson did put Reichel on the wing with Bedard and Kurashev in the third period, which shows the Blackhawks are trying to pick their spots. Perhaps we'll see more of that trio together in the future.
It should be acknowledged that Reichel is improving at the faceoff circle. He won eight of 13 draws against the Coyotes and is now up to a 51.2 percent success rate at the dot, which ranks second on the team. The Blackhawks have to be happy about that development.
But other than that, the results haven't been what either side probably hoped for in the early going.
I understand the Blackhawks challenging Reichel to dig in and be more determined to master the center position. They want him to grab the bull by the horns and show the team that he can battle through it.
My feeling at this point is, the Blackhawks could always move him back to center, but it just isn't working right now, and it feels a little too forced and dangerous to keep staying the course if it comes at the expense of Reichel potentially getting inside his own head.