Hockey isn’t big in Germany.
But for the kids who do play the sport the dreams are no different from their counterparts in Canada, the United States and beyond.
To one day hoist the Stanley Cup.
Starbulls Rosenheim forward Thomas Reichel, who is the only German junior skater listed by NHL Central Scouting for the 2017 NHL Draft, is no different.
“My biggest dream would obviously be to play in the NHL,” Reichel said.
Yet, Reichel takes his career one step at a time.
He doesn’t get too worried about what may or may not happen at the draft in June.
“Of course I am very happy (about getting ranked), but I also know it doesn’t mean too much,” he said. “There have been many players who didn’t get drafted anyway.
“I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get picked because my chances are relatively slim.
“But I would be very excited if things turned out differently.”
The Reichel name is well-known in North America.
Thomas’s father, Martin Reichel, was selected 37th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1992. Martin’s brother, Robert, was drafted 70th overall by the Calgary Flames in 1989 and appeared in 900 NHL games, where he recorded 260 goals and 661 points.
It’s a connection Reichel knows helps him.
“I definitely profit from my father,” Thomas said. “He tells me what to work on and gives me tips whenever he can.”
But, having relatives who have enjoyed successful careers also has its downsides.
The name bar brings added expectations.
“When I first found out that I was listed (by NHL Central Scouting), I put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Reichel, who made his professional debut this season. “The pressure never came from the outside.
“But that has gotten better now.”
Reichel’s path to the NHL will not be an easy one.
He’s got a long road to travel.
The last time a player got drafted out of Germany was in 2010, as most prospects decide to move to Canadian or American junior leagues with the hopes of increased exposure and higher competition.
So far, however, things have been going well for the 17-year-old.
After leading his junior team in scoring this season, Reichel got a call-up to Rosenheim’s men’s team, where he made his debut in the DEL 2, Germany’s second-tier pro league.
“I could improve my game a lot thanks to practices and games with the pro team,” Reichel said. “I have gotten quicker skating and stickhandling, but also in my decision making.
“I have gained a lot of experience and got used to the physicality of the pro game.”
But, Reichel will never settle at ‘good enough.’
“I still have a lot to improve, especially my skating,” he said.
Luckily, Reichel possesses tools NHL scouts and coaches covet.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 194 pounds, he is a big, playmaking center, but isn’t limited to just one position.
He’s multi-faceted, making him a valuable commodity.
It’ll help him down the road.
A long, difficult one from Germany to the NHL, but one Reichel hopes to go down one day.
Article by Janik Beichler