Chicago Sun-Times


As English, play improve, Reichel enjoys bond with Kurashev, a fellow German speaker


During two rookie scrimmages against the Wild in September 2021, the Blackhawks decided to “mic up” top prospect Lukas Reichel, who had just come over from Germany.

His best sound bites included repeatedly telling fellow prospects to “rip it” and describing plays as “over under.”

Today, Reichel looks back on that video and laughs.

“Guys in Rockford make jokes about that now because my English was terrible,” he said. “It’s just funny. It’s actually crazy how quickly you learn it just by hearing it every day and talking it every day.”

Reichel was taught some English in school growing up, but he admits school wasn’t his forte. When the Hawks picked him 17th overall in the 2020 draft, he held his own in his introducto­ry Zoom interview, but his sentences were short and simple.

Two seasons in North America have made a world of difference. He accurately considers his English “not bad” at this point.

Just consider, for example, his detailed assessment of his recent play — on the first line with Philipp Kurashev and Andreas Athanasiou — since rejoining the Hawks on Thursday.

“Last call-up, I had a good game against Calgary,” Reichel said. “It was the first time I really showed what I can [do] on the ice. Now I feel more comfortabl­e. I like to play with ‘AA’ and ‘Kurshy.’ Last game, we had some good chances, and we just have to shoot a little bit more. And in the D-zone, we have to clear pucks a little better. But when we’re on the rush or in the O-zone, we’re good, and we always try to make plays.”

Reichel and Kurashev have developed some chemistry this season. Of Reichel’s 80 minutes of five-on-five ice time in his six NHL appearance­s, 63 have been spent with Kurashev.

Their rapport has helped Reichel generate a 50.8% expected-goals ratio, making him one of only three Hawks above 50% (with fellow Rockford products Cole Guttman and Brett Seney being the other two).

And coincident­ally — or not — Reichel and Kurashev are also the only Hawks who speak German. That common denominato­r has been enjoyable for both of them.

“It’s always nice to speak our language,” Reichel said. “He’s from Switzerlan­d — it’s not the same — but I understand him pretty good, and he understand­s me pretty good. We have good chemistry, and you see it on the ice, too.”

Said Kurashev: “It’s a little bit harder for me because what we spoke in school and with my friends was Swiss-German. But it has been fun hearing a different language again for a while now.”

Kurashev is actually the Hawks’ resident polyglot, speaking Russian and French in addition to English and German.

“It helps me,” he said. “If we have some internatio­nal guys on the team, we can have a connection like that. That’s just how I grew up: in a Russian family in Switzerlan­d, [where it’s] German and French. And English comes from playing here. I guess it’s cool, but it’s normal for me.”

The two European forwards do have to consider their company when deciding how to communicat­e. During a recent dinner out with Guttman, a California native, they stuck to English so he could understand. That was perfectly doable because Reichel has grown so much more comfortabl­e with English.

In fact, he seems to be growing more comfortabl­e with everything despite the uncertain duration of this latest NHL stint.

He made a fantastic play along the defensive-zone boards Saturday against the Predators to jump-start a breakout that led to Seth Jones’ goal, earning Reichel his fourth career NHL assist.

“It’s less pressure, I would say,” Reichel said. “[My] first goal, it was good to get that out of the way because it was about time. Now I just want to stay hungry every game.”

 ?? MICHAEL REAVES/GETTY IMAGES ?? Of Lukas Reichel’s 80 minutes of five-on-five ice time in his six NHL appearance­s this season, 63 have been spent with Philipp Kurashev.
MICHAEL REAVES/GETTY IMAGES Of Lukas Reichel’s 80 minutes of five-on-five ice time in his six NHL appearance­s this season, 63 have been spent with Philipp Kurashev.
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States