It is relatively safe to say that most impact players are not signing free agent contracts in April or May, however, when the Blackhawks inked Dominik Kahun to a two-year deal, on May 21, there were a indicators that he could be a key contributor to the Hawks this season.
The devil is in the details, as they say.
Obviously, Blackhawks fans have not forgotten the huge impact that Artemi Panarin made after being signed in April of 2015 from SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. Panarin turned out to be a slick gamebreaker with an elite shot, and one of the top rising stars in the NHL. Kahun does not possess that same hockey skill set, but he could be an impact player. While it is highly unlikely that he will put up anything close to the numbers that Panarin has, that does not mean Kahun cannot end up skating valuable minutes and make an impact in the Blackhawks group of middle-six forwards.
The 23-year-old, the Czech born center stands at a shade under 6’ and 175 lbs. Despite being born in the Czech Republic, he was raised in Germany and has represented Germany in international play. As a youth, Kahun led the German Developmental League (DHL U-18) in scoring with 57 points, edging out fellow future NHLer Leon Draisaitl by one point.
Most recently Kahun played three seasons in the German Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) with the EHC Red Bull München and has played several tournaments with German National team. His big break came in the Olympics when he played a prominent role for the Silver Medal winning German National team, leading the team in scoring with 12 points (4G, 8A) in 18 total games. Playing mostly center, he has also shown some prowess at the faceoff dot winning 55.41% of his draws (41 of 74) in the Olympic tournament.
Even though he is a smooth stick handler, his best hockey assets are his sharp hockey IQ and his on-ice vision. More of a playmaker than a shooter, Kahun has registered 22, 19 and 29 assists in the DEL. The fact that he has been above 50% at the faceoff dot should present some additional defensive opportunities at center, as well. His sound two-way play, and hockey IQ could make him a favorite for Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville this season.
This is how one pro scout broke down Kahun’s game:
“He’s technically a strong player and lives from his hands and hockey sense. He can score goals but is definitely more of a playmaker. Slick and shifty (Kahun) always moves his feet. Smart and instinctive player with very good hockey sense and anticipation. Quick and soft hands, he controls the puck well in tight. Moves the puck quickly, plays up-tempo game, give and go, always around the puck. Smart with the puck, see the ice well, makes nifty passes in transition.”
One of the most interesting aspects of Kahun is his very incentive-rich two-year contract. He has a chance to make a substantial paycheck if his various bonus plateaus are reached. With a base entry level salary of only $925,000, he is only one of three undrafted players to receive max “A” and “B” structured contract. His max “A” bonuses include stats like games played, ice time, goals, assists, points and (+/-). The max “B” bonus includes end of season awards and rankings. Blackhawks fans will recall that Panarin was able to achieve both his max “A” and max “B” bonus on his entry level deal. While it is unlikely that Kahun achieves all potential bonuses, he has the potential to make between $1.9 million and $3.7 million this coming season and the next.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if he does not crack the Blackhawks roster his salary will shrink to a mere $70,000 and he has the opportunity to enact an out-clause which allows him to return back to the German League. As a result, it is unlikely he will be playing in the AHL.
One of the biggest advantages Kahun has over other Hawks prospects, outside of the fact he may actually be able to win a draw, is that he is a seasoned professional (23-years-old) with Olympic experience. If he ends up being the same player who stood out on an international stage he should be able to, at minimum, play third line minutes and contribute on the second team penalty-kill. With significant money on the table and considerable on-ice talent it is not completely unrealistic to forecast 30-35 points playing with the right surrounding cast.
Ideally, he would probably best be paired with a sniper to utilize his vision and passing. Could players like Dylan Sikura and Victor Ejdsell develop with Kahun into the depth production the Blackhawks will need to succeed this coming season? Let us know what you think.
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