Earlier, in June, I started writing about the 2020 NHL draft. I took a look at Alexis Lafreniere as a microcosm of how talented the draft class is, and previewed some options for the Flyers at the #25 overall pick in round one.
Today I wanted to take a deeper dive into those prospects which I had initially signaled as options for the Flyers should they be available for them. The first of these players who I will be analyzing is none other than Lukas Reichel.
Reichel is perhaps my favorite choice for the Flyers given their draft position and organization depth at the forward positions, in terms of play style. While Hendrix Lapierre, the center from the QMJHL, may be the more technical player and is undoubtedly a playmaker, the Flyers already have two young playmaking centers in Nolan Patrick and Morgan Frost. For me, Reichel just makes a bit more sense.
I had the following to say on Reichel previously:
Reichel is a big winger (6’0”, 172 lbs) who plays in the DEL of Germany, the top division of hockey there, for Eisbaren Berlin. I’ve actually seen him play (though not in person) a few times and was quite impressed.
He’s only eighteen years old, but impressed playing in a men’s league. He scored 24 points in 42 games (12 goals and 12 assists) in his first professional season, and got regular playing time. In addition to having a big frame, he is fast and creative with the puck, and can make plays in tight corners in addition to out in open space. For a big guy, he doesn’t quite play physically, but this isn’t too big of an issue for me.
He will almost certainly be available for the Flyers, though some mocks have him as a projected 2nd rounder. I think he’s far better than that, and though it would be a surprising pick, I think in the end it could be beneficial. I also like seeing the Flyers pick players who develop in leagues against men. You can more easily gauge them in my opinion. I’m also slightly impartial to European players and anyone that’s played in the Champions Hockey League.
While it is true that Reichel is being mocked to the second round in some draft boards, I’ve seen him pick up more steam in recent days, and now, it’s looking more and more certain that he’ll carry in a certain first round pedigree. Though, as I’ve said in previous draft related content, this year’s pool is so deep that it’s very difficult to project specifically where some players may end up.
Anyway, let’s get on with the show.
What do the stats say?
Well, first, let me say that the DEL, the top ice hockey league in Germany, is a league to be taken seriously. It may not be as skilled as the KHL, SHL, or SM-Liiga (Finland), but the DEL is in my opinion in a solid 4th place behind those three. The DEL regularly attract former NHL talent (including our good friend Bobby Sanguinetti who the Flyers wanted to take over Claude Giroux) and in recent years, the DEL system has produced some pretty good NHL prospects. Leon Draisaitl, this season’s leading point scorer and Hart trophy candidate, played in the DNL (German development league) for Mannheim before moving to Prince Albert of the WHL.
Unlike Draisaitl though, Reichel has stayed in Germany to start his young professional career. He broke into the DEL with Eisbaren Berlin as a 17-year-old this season (his birthday is in May so he only recently turned 18), and was astutely impressive for his age in one of the better leagues in Europe. He scored 12 goals and 24 points overall, leaving him tied for 94th most in the league, and 10 points behind fellow countryman Tim Stützle, who’s looking like a top five pick.
For context of how impressive his season was, he scored an equal amount of points as Matt Fraser of Augsburger Panther. Fraser is a 30-year-old winger, and an import from Canada. Though Fraser did play in 87 NHL games, he was mostly an AHL player in the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins organizations, where he scored at a decent rate. Yet, Fraser played in 10 more games than Reichel, so Reichel outpaced him, and he was only 17! The future is bright indeed, and I’m very excited to see what he does in the DEL or elsewhere next season.
Reichel also participated in the World Junior Championships in 2019-20, and scored 5 points (three of which were goals) in 7 contests for team Germany. Though he was outpaced by countrymen Moritz Seider, John-Jason Peterka, and Dominik Bokk (Germany really is on the rise as a hockey nation), Reichel was certainly no slouch at this tournament.
The Eye Test
Earlier, I was mentioning that Reichel fits better in the organization as a pick in terms of play style, and I can really see him being a player Alain Vigneault loves. Reichel is a winger with size who I would say is pass-first in mentality, but doesn’t waste opportunities to try and score for himself. He also isn’t a purely offense-first winger. Reichel’s game extends to all 200 feet of the ice, and he can make an impact defensively as well as offensively.
Reichel is a big guy, but he doesn’t necessarily use his size in the traditional way a power forward would. This is because he doesn’t need to. Reichel is a very slick skater and has impressive speed for a man his size.
One things that stands out to me about Lukas Reichel is how well he handles the puck with speed and how he’s able to separate himself from d-men with stick handling and speed. Have a look at this nasty goal.— TPEHockey (@TPEHockey) December 11, 2019
Reichel is a 1st Rd prospect for the #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/8DhE3jpZ57
Therefore, while he isn’t afraid to go to the net and often grabs goals by doing so, Reichel can equally beat defenders with his combination of speed and puck-handling skill. He falls in this sweet-spot between using a power-oriented game and a speed-oriented game, and it benefits him well since it makes him incredibly versatile depending on what’s working in a particular game.
I also said earlier that Reichel has a pass-first mentality, but that doesn’t limit his goalscoring ability. Reichel possesses a very heavy shot that gives goaltenders trouble, and has a knack for finding good areas of the ice from which to score or provide. That, combined with his willingness to go to the net and dirty areas to score, yet again shows his versatility.
All of the previous skills he has shown would mean nothing if Reichel was simply clueless on the ice. Fortunately for Reichel, he is an extremely intelligent player who flashes instinctive hockey IQ to compliment his raw talent.
Lukas Reichel is one of the most underrated players in this draft.— Evan (@Shattenkirk) May 13, 2020
Mini thread: (hope the quality holds up)
Strong play on the boards ➡️ Puck to the point ➡️ Instantly shows himself as an option ➡️ Approach he takes keeps the forwards stick out of the lane ➡️ Goal pic.twitter.com/ipJATVnhNq
Reichel has the talent to make key plays, both in terms of his skill ability and his physical ability, and has the wherewithal to put it all together. The fact he was doing all of this as a 17-year-old simply adds to how high his ceiling is. Even minimally, his floor looks to be a solid bottom six NHL forward.
He is a player with no real visible flaws, that does everything to at least a “good” level. It is yet to be seen whether Reichel can take that next step and amplify his game as he progresses, and that factor is what in the end, will determine his success in the future. I’m more inclined to buy into the upside, since he is already playing in a men’s league and has given me no reason to doubt his future. however.
Lukas Reichel would be a fantastic pick for the Flyers should he be available.