Regular Season Stats
57 GP, 4 G, 12 A, 16 PTS, +8 +/-, 18 PIM
11 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, +2 +/-, 4 PIM
The son of the “German Wayne Gretzky” has found a fine niche in the 1st full year of his rookie campaign. Tom Kuhnhackl has emerged as 1 of the more relied upon penalty killers that the Pittsburgh Penguins have to offer. It’s definitely a way to make a name for yourself but there could always be more room to improve for Tommy K. Because of his penalty killing and 4th to 3rd line roles, his numbers don’t dazzle, yet Kuhnhackl is still an important piece to the Penguins. Flashes of offensive skill have been shown but never enough to promote him to a larger responsibility.
Kuhnhackl is among the group of young gunners or “kids” that were all called up for 2016, this included Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Conor Sheary and Matt Murray. If you also count Jake Guentzel from this 2017 year, that’s an entertaining ensemble cast there, though at all of these Kuhnackl is the player that most gets lost in the shuffle. Towards the end of this 2017 season he was fighting to just to stay in the lineup in danger of getting a healthy scratch, in the playoffs he again waited game to game on if he would be on the ice. Ultimately he got injured and didn’t play past the 2nd round so unlike 2016 when his name was there, he will not be on the 2017 Cup. Injuries are apart of the game as the Penguin know by now, and while Kuhnackl definitely gave great contributions to the team, it’s hard to justify any grade higher than B when his the group of guys he was called up with all had much wealthier impacts for the run.
Now some of this will be easier to determine after we found out whose getting re signed to the Pens and what new free agents are brought on, yet 2018 is very important for Kuhnhackl. I won’t go as far to say it’s make or break but he will have something to prove. They won’t be asking him to put up 60 something points, but I’m sure Kuhnackl himself would like to be more involved offensively than 16 regular season and 2 playoff points. What he can capitalize on his strength of penalty killing
Kuhnhackl is a guy you don’t have to worry about but so far he hasn’t blown you away compared to a Rust or Guentzel. If given more ice time and chances I can see Kuhnhackl mandating a 3rd line spot for the season or even becoming expendable in a battle for the last 4th line spot that could be thrown in a trade at the deadline. It’s all up to him, I think there’s untapped potential for Kuhnackl that we haven’t seen yet. Whose to say he wouldn’t be a point collector if on a line with Sidney Crosby? There’s a reason though why Sheary and Guentzel were given those spots and he wasn’t. There’s a lot to question for Tom Kuhnhackl but with a little more ice time and motivation he could be sneaky timely scorer next season.
For the role he is asked to play, Kuhnhackl provides the right ingredient to what stirs the Penguins. Not every player is going to be the superstar, and he is the grit and glue that every team needs to keep a team grinding together. Along with Carl Hagelin, he has his spot as the winger on the penalty kill. Pending the retirement of Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen, he can fill a role of timely goal scoring when the team needs to look somewhere else. Kuhnhackl plays to his strengths, there’s a comfort to him that fans and coaches can rely upon. I would love to see him expand his abilities just a little.
He does seem like a guy that would be fun to party along side: