The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4th round pick in 2010 was considered a steal by many hockey critics at the time due to the potential they saw in the German winger.

Now, after a full and healthy season, Tom Kuhnhackl has surpassed the expectations anyone could have expected from him in his first North American season.

Kuhnhackl, the son of the German hockey legend Erich Kuhnhackl, was drafted by the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL 24th overall in the CHL import draft in 2009.

That too has proven to be a steal since the forward leads the team in goals as a rookie.

Kuhnhackl ended the season ranked as the 8th overall European skater according to CSS but fell in the draft due to concerns over a shoulder injury that forced him to miss some time and concerns over playing in an inferior European league.

Kuhnhackl would have been chosen much earlier in the draft had he been playing in North America which would guarantee more exposure and if his German World Junior team had performed better in 2009.

Kuhnhackl is currently in the OHL playoffs with the back-to-back champion Windsor Spitfires and his team is leading the series 3-1.

Despite Kuhnhackl suffering an injury in game 3, he returned for game 4 and scored 2G 2A and was a +4.

Full scouting reports and information on Kuhnhackl below:

Biography

Position: Forward
Shoots: Left
Height: 6’2’‘
Weight: 192 lbs.
Born: 1/21/1992
Hometown: Landshut, Germany
Acquired: Drafted 4th round in 2010

FF says:
Kuhnhackl was one of the better players at prospect camp in July. He has experience playing against men in Germany and also participated in the 2011 World Junior Championship for Germany. He is eligible to play in the AHL next season but could also return to Windsor. I would prefer to see him take the next step in his development in the AHL but a return to the OHL would certainly not hurt.

He has good offensive instincts on the ice and is good at getting space for himself to unleash his shot. He is a great forechecker and is great at forcing the defense into a mistake with his tireless pursuit of the puck. Kuhnhackl, in the European style, is a left handed shot who prefers playing on the off wing so he has a better angle at the net on his shot. Kuhnhackl has an excellent wrist shot as well as a heavy slap shot that he is not afraid to use. He loves going high glove on the goalie if possible but also enjoys going over the pad-under the blocker stick side.

Kuhnhackl also has an edge to his game not really expected from a player like him. He got 2 minutes for checking from behind and a 10 minute misconduct in the WJC and also received a 2 game suspension this year in the OHL for a slew foot. He is no Matt Cooke but no saint either.

What Others are Saying About Kuhnhackl

Would have been a lock to go in the first round this season well before the Sharks pick, had he remained healthy. Injuries either kept him out of key international events or prevented him from showing off his full capabilities while there. A team with a strong scout in Germany (San Jose) shouldn’t have a tough time projecting him.

Last year in Fargo for the World U-18’s, Tim Burke was next to me watching the Germans play. Kuhnhackl had the puck down low in the offensive zone and Burke called out the move Kuhnhackl was going to use to score. Sure enough, it was exactly what Kuhnackl did. That tells me Burke knows this kid inside and out. Few players are better deep in the offensive zone and around the net as this German winger. Smooth skater with a deceptive shot. Must get stronger and rebound with a healthy season next year.

Is Kühnhackl worth the 31st overall pick, or is this a player that the Oilers could target with the 48th overall pick? Once again we go back to the always-outstanding Bruins 2010 Draft Watch for a scouting report on Kühnhackl:

He ‘s an elite talent who, prior to the season, was seen in some circles as a top-10 prospect, but is slipping (ranked 10th on the European skaters list by Central). If he is there early in the 2nd, Kuhnhackl would be a steal. He’s an explosive player with a very quick stick and a high-end hockey IQ. He’s a beanpole (6-2, 172 pounds) who has a lot of filling out to do, but scouts love his live athletic build and know he’ll pack on enough mass to handle the physical aspects.

Erich was 6’5” and 198 lbs, so Tom’s got lankiness is in his genes, but the kid should be expected to add another 30 pounds to his frame. He came into the Bundesliga as a center, but he’s played left wing for the Cannibals thus far as a professional.

One positive for Kühnhackl’s draft position is that he’s committed to moving to North America for the 2010-2011 season. From The Scouting Report:

He’s a big forward who moves well and has a solid goal scoring touch. Some may have expected more from the German this season, but he still managed to produce well playing in a Men’s league. He’ll be transitioning over the pond to Windsor next year, where many North Americans will have a better gauge on his development.

Kühnhackl will make the jump to North America next year and play for the OHL champion and Memorial Cup winner, the Windsor Spitfires. His willingness to play in the CHL next year should push his draft position up a handful of spots over where he would have been taken had he planned to stay in Germany.

Windsor General Manager Warren Rychel has said: “He’s a great skater and he’s gifted with the puck.” He’ll have the opportunity to show off those skills next year as he may replace the departing Taylor Hall. Windsor could lose four first round draft selections from the championship team, so Kühnhackl will have an immediate stage. Kuhnhackl’s scouting record on himself:

I think I’m the kind of player that my dad was. He’s tall, I’m tall. I use my body to protect the puck. I can get the puck to the net to create scoring chances, see the open guy.

In the long view, Kühnhackl has been compared to Marco Sturm in that he is fast, agile, possesses great acceleration and plays well in both zones. He’s much larger than Sturm, and possesses more high-end skill. Both Kühnhackl and Sturm, as well as Erich, came out of the same development program in Landshut, yet another pointer towards the younger Kühnhackl’s pedigree.

EHC München General Manager Christian Winkler called Kühnhackl a “feast for the eyes”:

A feast for the eyes, what has the boy on it. There are not many talents like him in Germany. I will not impose on him the name Kühnhackl more, but he reminds me of Marco Sturm.

I’ll take a feast for the eyes in the second round.

Video of Kuhnhackl in action
Interview in German (English subtitles) and highlights:

Shootout goal by Kuhnhackl on great release and heavy shot:

Give and go by Kuhnhackl and Gibbons. Kuhnhack starts with it, drops it to Gibbons, who returns the pass for a goal:

Great move by Kuhnhackl and drive to the net for a goal:

Game winning shootout goal for Windsor:

PP goal for Kuhnhackl – he loves to score from this spot on the ice: