With their playoff run over following a game 7 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars, the Colorado Avalanche are now looking ahead to October — where they hold the 24th overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Recent 24th picks include: Phillip Tomasino (NSH, 2019) , Fillip Johansson (MIN, 2018), Kristian Vesalainen (WPG, 2017), Max Jones (ANA, 2016) and — perhaps most notably — Travis Konecny (PHI, 2015). It’s not the highest spot, but plenty of bona fide NHL names have been taken at the position; from Marcus Johansson (taken by Washington in 2009) to Danny Briere and Sean Burke (taken in 1996 and 1985, respectively, by Phoenix and New Jersey), the 24th overall selection seems to be a prime location for snagging sleeper picks that go on to have storied careers.
That makes it a strong position to consider winger Lukas Reichel. The German-born talent has seemed to come out of nowhere, rising continuously throughout the year as he put up strong numbers in the DEL and at the U20 WJC.
His potential selection could continue the trend of German talent making a dent early in the draft over the last few years, with Moritz Seider getting snagged early on last year after Dominik Bokk went in the first round a couple of years ago. Germany has been producing NHL talent under the radar for a handful of years — and this season’s draft is proof that the nation’s development has taken yet another step forward. With three German-born players projected to go early (Tim Stützle could get taken as high as 2nd overall, while John Jason Peterka and Reichel are projected to go in the mid to late first round), the Avalanche could be the next team to tap into the ever-increasing wealth of talent being offered.
Reichel is the least talked about of the three early-projected German-born prospects, although he’s the one that has extensive NHL family ties. His dad, Martin, is a former Edmonton Oilers pick — and his uncle, Robert Reichel, played 11 NHL seasons, posting 630 points in 830 games. Lukas hopes to have his name added to the family list of NHL playing hockey players.
In 2018-19, Reichel was part of the Eisbären Juniors Berlin U-20 team, posting 11 goals and 42 points in 32 games. He also was part of the German WJC-18 team and posted 3 goals and 5 points in 5 games.
This past season, though, he made the jump to the highest German league and earned a full time spot with the senior Eisbären Berlin program in the DEL. The then-17-year-old came flying out of the gate, scoring 8 goals and 15 points in his first 23 games and finishing the year with 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points. He saw an average of 13 minutes of ice time per game, totaling 70 shots on goal over the full year. He, along with the three other draft-eligible German players, formed a 17-year old line at the WJC this past December, where Reichel had 3 goals and 5 points through 7 games. Look for him to be back with the German squad in Edmonton for the 2021 WJC, playing a key offensive role.
In the Hockey Prospecting Model, created by Byron Bader, Lukas put up a solid 24 NHL equivalency points. He is on a similar projected development path as Jake Guentzel after his draft year, and has a 51% projected chance at becoming a regular NHL player. He falls below Stutzle — who scored 7 goals and 34 points for Alder Mannheim of the DEL and boasts an NHLe of 34 — but looks to be a stronger lock than John-Jason Peterka, who had 7 goals and 11 points for EHC Red Bull München of the DEL and has an NHLe of 11.
There is a lot to like about Reichel, who appears to be a very meat and potatoes player who does everything very well. The first thing you see in his game is his extremely high IQ; he understands where to go on the ice, and can both find open areas and use the space given when he doesn’t immediately see one. He knows how to create for himself and find open players in the offensive zone, and he makes the right play more often than not.
To go along with high IQ, Reichel is a great skater. His fundamentals are solid; his stride, foot angles and alignment are all in place. He has a quick and explosive first step, which he uses to create separation between him and other players, then follows that up with smooth skating once he’s moving around the ice. Everything looks fluid and effortless, and he’s shown he can switch to high gear very quickly. He has great edge work and a good stutter step he uses to fool defenders.
Of the three German prospects, Reichel has the best shot, and he uses it. He doesn’t just score from the dot or in high slot areas, showing a willingness to go to the net without hesitation. He finds lose pucks and finishes the play off, but his one-timer isn’t to be ignored either; it looks high end and will be a key piece to a team’s power play.
Where he can improve
Moving forward, he’ll need to address what looks like a lack of strength. That should come to an extent as he gets older, but right now he gets pushed around a bit, losing board battles and front net positioning. With more added muscle and mass, he should start to win more of those battles and become a more complete offensive threat.
He defensive play is also a little underwhelming. My main concern is he glides and puck watches a bit too much in the defensive zone; in order to be a more complete player, he’ll need to show some more awareness of his surroundings, a higher willingness to race to the puck, and a stronger ability to beat guys in battles along the boards to get the puck out of the zone. More confidence will help him out.
What are others saying about him?
“He is a fluid skater, very fast and does all that without even sweating… skating is effortless for him. His puck handling is also really really good and his greatest strength is his smarts on the ice. His game readings and his positioning are top notch, especially for a youngster who plays among men.” Maxim Lapierre – Lukas Reichel’s team and line mate
Projected path to the NHL
If Reichel were to enter the Avalanche prospect pool, for the upcoming year it would be most prudent to leave him in the DEL. As said before, he needs to fill out, gain strength and learn to play with that strength. Staying in the DEL, playing alongside former NHLers, he can continue to play, watch and learn while growing physically in an easier-paced league. He should also be a part of the WJC in Edmonton, though, so the team will still get a good close up look at him against his peers as an 18-year old playing against a mainly 19-year old Canadian roster.
By the 2021-22 season, though, it would make sense for him to ink his ELC and potentially look to head over to Loveland. By then he will have added strength, and the competition is a step up from the DEL. Don’t look for Lukas to start making the push for NHL time until at least his D+3 year, though. With the big money been spent on players like Mackinnon (his extension) Makar, Landeskog and Rantanen, the Avalanche will need players on their ELC to come in and produce for them to keep the cup window wide open.