It didn’t last long, but seeing the Chicago Blackhawks recall Lukas Reichel from the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Rockford IceHogs for Tuesday’s matchup presented an interesting idea. With the team coming off back-to-back shutout losses, as well as losing nine of the past 10 games, it might not be a bad idea for the Blackhawks to shake up the roster a bit and recall an IceHog soon, possibly long-term.
The Blackhawks aren’t under any pressure to compete, of course, but recalling a prospect would give fans something to root for while also providing a glimpse into the future. Here are three IceHogs the team should consider recalling, all of whom would likely improve the roster to some degree.
As one of the Blackhawks’ top defensive prospects, Alec Regula has been everything the IceHogs could ask for this season. Through 12 games, he has six points (two goals, four assists) with a plus-eight rating. It’s worth noting Regula has four NHL games under his belt this season from multiple call-ups as he skated in the team’s season opener back on Oct. 12 before dressing in three separate games in November.
Now, the Blackhawks don’t necessarily need Regula. Their right side in Tuesday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils (Dec. 6) consisted of Seth Jones, Connor Murphy, and Ian Mitchell, which is perfectly acceptable given the Blackhawks’ current state. However, if injuries occur or Chicago simply wants a shakeup, Regula would be a great option. At 6-foot-4, he has a great frame, and his offensive numbers in the AHL have looked promising.
While Regula has been in the Blackhawks’ system since Oct. 2019, I still think it’s too early to tell whether he’ll be a factor when Chicago competes again. With Kevin Korchinski on the rise and a plethora of other defensive prospects, there’s always a chance Regula becomes expendable in the next few years, depending on how the team’s pipeline grows. Like Mitchell, he may be reaching a point where he doesn’t have much left to prove in the AHL.
Whether Regula successfully takes the next step remains to be seen. Giving him an extended look in Chicago, though, would be a smart move.
Another option if they want a boost defensively would be for the Blackhawks to call up Isaak Phillips. The team’s 2020 fifth-round pick, Phillips, is about a year younger than Regula at 21 years old. He has a great defensive presence, as he has a plus-18 rating through 20 games with the IceHogs. Phillips has also added more offense to his game lately, with 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) this season compared to just 25 points through 64 games last season.
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Compared to Regula, I’d say it’s less likely Phillips gets a call-up soon. Despite being a good puck mover and having solid skating skills, he’s only two years removed from his draft, so it would be understandable if a player like Regula or Alex Vlasic gets a longer look soon, knowing they’ve been in the organization longer. That said, it’d be worthwhile for the team just to see what he can bring. Even if he isn’t ready to take the full-time leap yet, a little taste of NHL action wouldn’t hurt his growth.
As a rebuilding club, Phillips would give the Blackhawks a hint of youth. Knowing he’s been a key part of the IceHogs’ success, a long-term stint probably isn’t likely; however, a game or two could be a possibility if the team wants to see what he can bring.
Yes, we’ve been here before. Dylan Sikura, the Blackhawks’ 2014 sixth-round draft pick, was once one of the team’s most highly-touted forward prospects. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find his groove with Chicago during a handful of call-ups from 2017-20, leading the team to trade him to the Vegas Golden Knights in Sept. 2020. From 2020-22, he spent time in the Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche organizations before finding his way back to Chicago this past July.
Since Sikura never became a fixture in Chicago, it might have seemed odd for the team to bring him back. They did so, however, purely for AHL depth and leadership. He’s provided just that in Rockford, with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) through 18 games.
With that in mind, since Sikura’s been an integral part of the IceHogs’ success, why would the Blackhawks bring him up? It’s simple. Giving him a stint might shake up the team, if they wanted, without having to rush younger forwards such as Lukas Reichel. Plus, it would reward Sikura for his hard work with the IceHogs. Even if his success doesn’t translate to the Blackhawks, it’d be a low-risk move since the team doesn’t have pressure to win.
At 27 years old, it’s hard to envision Sikura becoming a bona fide NHL forward at this point in his career. Yet, giving him a call-up would be a fun move and possibly one last chance for him to prove his worth at the NHL level.
The Blackhawks don’t need to call anyone up right now, and it would be perfectly fine if they don’t. As brutal as the results have been, the team wasn’t built to contend but rather get a high pick in next year’s draft. Meanwhile, it’s the complete opposite for the IceHogs, who sit third in the AHL’s Central Division at 12-7-0. We’ll see if these three players see time in Chicago this season, but they’re all capable of providing a spark.
Connor Smith covers the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. He’s based in the Chicago area and is currently pursuing his master’s at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He received his bachelor’s degree from Ball State University in May 2022 and has experience reporting and editing for The Ball State Daily News, the campus’ student newspaper, along with interning for Best Version Media (BVM) Sports. You can learn more about Smith and his work through his online portfolio, connornsmith0719.wordpress.com.