Chicago Blackhawks GM Davidson explains decision on Reichel

The Blackhawks' top priorities this season have been obvious since the puck dropped for real on Oct. 12:

• Lose as many games as possible to all but guarantee a top-3 draft pick.

• Make sure every solid prospect improves as much as possible so they can help in the years to come.

With that in mind, it was no surprise forward Lukas Reichel - who just played three very solid games for the Hawks - was reassigned to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs on Friday.

The surprise came Saturday morning when GM Kyle Davidson called an impromptu news conference to "reiterate my support for our development system in Rockford."

Davidson's in a bit of a tough spot when it comes to Reichel because the 20-year-old can clearly play in the NHL. Reichel scored his first goal and dished out 2 assists in the Hawks' 4-3 OT win over Calgary on Jan. 8 and also looked solid in wins over Arizona and Colorado.

Still, the young GM wants Reichel to grow his game and leadership skills in the minors.

"Go down and play center, be a go-to guy, a leader on the team that's going to play meaningful hockey down the stretch," Davidson said. "That's not to say that he's not going to get opportunities here because ... (of) injuries. We're not going to hold that from him."

It makes plenty of sense for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that it's difficult to improve on an NHL team that's often overwhelmed by quality opponents.

"We're chasing most games here," Davidson said. "And I don't necessarily think that's conducive to extremely positive development.

"There's great situations in Rockford where our young players have to go out and defend a lead and defend close games. And they get opportunities to play and score and come back from tight games against other really good teams."

The IceHogs are comfortably in a playoff spot with a 20-11-4 record. They're in third place in the Central Division and right on the heels of second-place Milwaukee and first-place Texas.

Reichel has 14 goals and 22 assists in 36 games at Rockford.

If we're splitting hairs, Davidson could have allowed Reichel to finish out the Hawks' homestand against Seattle on Saturday and Buffalo on Tuesday. That would have been a nice reward for his solid play, and it may have given him a chance to skate on a line with Patrick Kane, who returned after a three-game absence to face the Seattle Kraken.

"Especially this year compared to last year it seems like he's playing with a lot more confidence," Kane said. "Hopefully he's a guy I can play with in the future."

Davidson said this philosophy - that high-end prospects should dominate or take their time developing in the minors - isn't necessarily going to continue every year.

And, according to Davidson, coach Luke Richardson is on board with how things are being handled in 2022-23.

"He's got a long-term vision of this as well," Davidson said. "He came in eyes wide open on what we're trying to do and build. And so he wants what's best for the long-term health of our players and our franchise.

"If that means Lukas going down or (goalie) Arvid (Soderblom) going down and playing games and getting wins, then that's what we think is the best and we're in lock-step on that.

"There's no separation on that philosophy."

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