Lukas Reichel changed his mindset to get back to the Chicago Blackhawks: ‘I’m going to turn this around’

It’s probably a coincidence that Lukas Reichel’s locker room stall at the Chicago Blackhawks’ practice rink sits next to Jason Dickinson’s.

It’s definitely providence.

Dickinson said the stall had sat empty until Reichel’s recall from Rockford on Friday. And if there’s a veteran who can relate to Reichel’s struggles to find his place in the NHL, it’s Dickinson.

“I went through a very similar situation,” said Dickinson, a 2013 first-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars. Reichel was the Hawks’ 2020 first-rounder.

As a high draft pick, “the hype gets going, you start feeling the hype. … Everybody’s getting really excited for you to finally make the NHL. And it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get the same player that he was in the minors in the NHL.

“That’s rarely the case because very few players are able to translate their game from the minors to the NHL the same way. It’s a much different league,” Dickinson said. “Yes, you’re playing with better players but you’re playing against some very good defensemen and even better goalies.”

In a way, Reichel has taken a bigger hit to his confidence than Dickinson did.

Dickinson’s Stars were on the cusp of becoming a playoff team the next season. That’s likely in the distant future for the second-to-last-place Hawks.

“It’s a little bit harder sometimes to look at it that way and be like, ‘Well, the team’s not doing well, why can’t I at least be there?’” he said. “But there is a long-run plan here that it’s worthwhile for him to take a deep breath and learn that it’s not about getting to the league quick, it’s about staying for a long time.

“So if he gets here full-time and is dominant next year, that’s what we want to see.”

Dickinson said he’ll try to give Reichel as much guidance as he can.

Reichel went through a couple of periods earlier this season in which he sat for a game or two, with the hope that getting scratched would give him a chance to regroup and recover the promise he displayed in 2022-23.

It didn’t take.

Through 50 games, he had just three goals and seven assists, and he was sent to the IceHogs for nine games.

“At first, you’re just pissed off and you’re frustrated,” Reichel said. “But then the next day I woke up and I said: ‘I’m going to turn this around and try my best down there and help this team win and to have a win mentality,’ and I think it worked out pretty good.

Reichel had a goal and six assists, but he said the opportunity to refocus his game meant more.

“I talked to (coach) Anders (Sorensen) down there a lot, and we talked a lot about (playing) without the puck, (the) forecheck,” he said. “(Consultant) Chris Kunitz was down there and he had a video of me, and we talked about the forecheck and about what he did and what other good players do, so little things like that.”

Hawks coach Luke Richardson said he also talked to Sorensen and Hawks management who watched Reichel’s games with the IceHogs.

“At the beginning he had some real good bursts and then there was some fall-off, the concentration level and probably lots going on in his mind,” Richardson said. “But the last little bit … (he) finally scored and (was) shooting the puck a lot more. He seemed like he was making his progress for sure and hopefully that leads to some success up here.”

Reichel played right wing with Rockford after playing center in previous stints.

That was part of the problem in Chicago. He bounced between wing and center and up and down the line, even the fourth line, which was an odd fit for his skill set.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be an ultimate checking-line player,” Richardson said. “He’s just not built for that.

“He needs to really hone his defensive game where he can be reliable but he has to use those skills to produce offense or help other people produce offense.”

For some players, Dickinson said, it takes a change in mindset from what role you thought you were going to play to what you can play — a transformation he had to make.

“There’s definitely potential for him to find his game and still be an important piece while not being the guy that puts up 100 points,” Dickinson said. “You don’t need to be that guy.

“Look at Nikolaj Ehlers, why is that not a fair comparison for him?”

The left winger has put up points as high as the low 60s in his nine seasons for the Winnipeg Jets.

“That’s very attainable for Lukas,” Dickinson said.

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He added that while Ehlers is “not the top dog in Winnipeg, he’s a very good player and a guy that everybody marks on their scoresheet to say, ‘Hey, you gotta watch out for this guy.’ … He’s not the guy driving the bus like (Mark) Scheifele (or) Kyle Connor, he’s still a very important piece. …

“So why is that not the case for Lukas to be that guy?”

Richardson shared Dickinson’s assessment about having an open mindset.

“Everybody’s got dreams, right?” he said. “Sometimes the reality sets in and you have to accept reality or not and change, get better at what you do to reach those dreams or make some adjustments like you’re talking about. Maybe filling a different role until that opportunity comes again.

“I think that’s the stage he’s at,” said Richardson, adding that Reichel needs to have patience. “He has to be really responsible on the ice and not cheat on the offense and forget about the defense. He has to have a good, complete game until there are games where it just clicks offensively and he gets opportunities and he buries it.”

Reichel got his first opportunity Sunday against the San Jose Sharks.

“I feel more confidence now and I want to show that (Sunday),” he said before the game.

Reichel reunited with Andreas Athanasiou on a second line that included Nick Foligno, and he played right wing and had one shot on goal. In the third period of the Hawks’ 5-2 win, he hopped on a loose puck and fed Kevin Korchinski for a one-time goal.

“It felt good,” Reichel said about his return. “At first the pace of the game is a little bit different, but I just tried to give everything 100% every shift and try to win every battle and just compete as hard as I can out there, and that was my focus before the game.”