Lukas Reichel earns full-time job with Blackhawks with breakout performance in victory against Flames


Lukas Reichel (left) scored his long-awaited first NHL goal Sunday for the Blackhawks.

AP Photo/Erin Hooley

Top Blackhawks prospect Lukas Reichel might not be a prospect anymore.

The 20-year-old forward finally smashed through his NHL glass ceiling Sunday, notching three points in a display of confidence, talent and chemistry in the Hawks’ 4-3 overtime victory against the Flames.

Combined with his stellar outing Friday against the Coyotes — which Hawks management considered his best game in the organization to date — Reichel proved this weekend he deserves a permanent role in the Hawks’ top six.

And the Hawks are going to give it to him.

‘‘The idea of bringing him up now is probably [because] he earned a spot,’’ coach Luke Richardson said. ‘‘It’s not just a flash, coming up for a game or two. It’s to give him extended time to see if he can sustain what he’s doing right now. We expect him to be here.’’

Statistically, Reichel had a goal and two assists — quadrupling his career NHL points total from one (in 13 games entering Sunday) to four — as well as a team-high five shots on goal and four high-danger scoring chances in 16 minutes, 16 seconds of ice time.

But even beyond the numbers, every part of Reichel’s play reflected the kind of growth that suggests elite upside.

‘‘It feels so good,’’ Reichel said. ‘‘Last game, too, there were so many chances, and it didn’t go in. But you’ve got to work hard for it and keep going, and today it bounced my way.’’

For his goal, he retrieved a loose puck along the boards, protected it from two Flames, made a nifty behind-the-back pass to Seth Jones, crashed the net and knocked in a rebound between his legs.

For his first assist, his high-knees skating stride powered him down the ice on a two-on-two rush, and he sold the shooting possibility convincingly — so much so that the Flames pulled starting goalie Jacob Markstrom for falling so hard for it — before delivering a perfect pass to give Philipp Kurashev a tap-in.

And for his second assist, he finally connected with Max Domi — with whom he had worked in harmony all night, nearly producing several additional goals — for the dramatic overtime winner.

‘‘He managed the puck; his decision-making was great,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘He’s not the biggest guy, but that’s a big defense over there, and he wasn’t afraid to go in there. And that was good to see.

‘‘[He was] not only just dangling with the puck offensively but separating people from the puck and creating havoc. He really wants to make a big impression, and he has so far.’’

Reichel’s increased physicality, defensive responsibility and eagerness to drive the net are all factors behind the Hawks’ sudden comfort — 12 months after his NHL debut — with keeping him around for good.

But perhaps the biggest factor is his maturation. Rockford coach Anders Sorensen worked closely with Reichel this fall, reminding him often that it’s perfectly fine to ‘‘play 10 shifts in a row where nothing happens’’ as long as he’s being smart and consistent during each of those shifts.

Ask Reichel about that subject, and it becomes clear he has been listening. It’s also clear why he needed to hear it.

‘‘[Sorensen] always says, ‘Sometimes it’s good to have 50-50 shifts,’ ’’ Reichel said. ‘‘I’m always trying to do something cool. Sometimes it works and it’s pretty sick, but sometimes it doesn’t work and it’s a turnover and I go play [in the] ‘D’-zone.’’

On Sunday, the cool things were working and were pretty sick. His single-game highlight reel was more exciting than many weekslong stretches of Hawks hockey this season.

In the weeks ahead, however, the Hawks would love to see Reichel continue to demonstrate his all-around improvement as much as they would enjoy watching him pile up points.

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