On a team like the Penguins who’s scoring prowess is what makes them lethal, guys like Tom Kuhnhackl go unnoticed. It’s the unfortunate reality of being an elite skating, high scoring hockey team.
With the Penguins trade of Eric Fehr at the deadline last week, Mike Sullivan found Kuhnhackl to seemingly be the everyday replacement in his lineup. Kuhnhackl is the much younger and cheaper version of Eric Fehr. Neither are known for their scoring but more for their defensive aspect.
The nice positive with Kuhnhackl is his willingness to block a shot and kill penalties. You can surely find these guys throughout minor league systems and Kuhnhackl is no exception. He’s been benched throughout the season in favor of more skilled guys while the lineup was completely healthy. With Fehr being traded and forward injuries compiling game-by-game, Kuhnhackl is forced into the lineup and has seemed to run with it.
In 40 games played so far this season, Kuhnhackl has amounted 4 goals and 9 points. His offense doesn’t make him the player he is. He averages 10:02 TOI a game and has done so efficiently this season.
As of Friday, Kuhnhackl had played 82 games in his NHL career. This, of course, is one entire regular season schedule.
He’s got nine goals and 24 points in those 82 contests. Three of these have come short handed. You’ll remember his first career goal, a short handed backhand beauty past Ben Bishop, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Kuhnhackl puts on display some great hands. His hands are a mystery as they don’t generate more offense for him which is mind boggling. He’s had a good set of hands since he reached the NHL level and it’s interesting to watch him play.
The Penguins find a great balance in their lineup of speedy, defensive prowess. Kuhnhackl doesn’t necessarily fit the first description. He’s the definition of defense. The Penguins made the easy decision to rid of Fehr and use Kuhnhackl is the same role to play for cheaper. It also keeps their identity as a young team.