For Dominik Kahun, strong Olympic performance could present NHL opportunityWill Dominik Kahun be the next German in the NHL? Photo: Reuters/David W. Cerny
If you found yourself growing increasingly impressed by Germany while watching the Olympic Mens’ Ice Hockey tournament unfold, I got news for you: you weren’t the only one. The Germans captured the hearts and minds of hockey fans all over the globe as the underdog team powered through contender after contender. After taking out Sweden and Canada on their way to the finals, Germany were on the verge of claiming the gold by defeating the Olympic Athletes of Russia (OAR) as well, before ultimately succumbing to a last-minute equalizer and then overtime winner from the artists formerly known as Russia.
During the tournament, a number of German players stood out.
Veterans like defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and team captain Marcel Goc who played their hearts out for one final chance at Olympic glory. Goaltender Danny aus den Birken who went toe-to-toe with the best attackers Sweden, Canada and OAR had to offer. Finally, a speedy little forward with the somewhat unusual number “72” plastered on his back: Dominik Kahun.
Kahun tallied a respectable five points (2+3) in seven games, but what stood out was how he managed to elevate his level of play as the playoffs started. He began by scoring a goal against Sweden in the quarterfinals, then added an assist as Germany upset Canada in the semifinals and finally scored in the 3rd period of the finals versus the OAR. While he didn’t get to go home carrying a gold medal around his neck, Kahun did realize the significance of what he and his teammates had done:
“The first ten minutes after the game we were incredibly sad,” he told Yle. “But then we realized what we had done. We won an Olympic silver – what more can you ask? Before the tournament nobody could have predicted we would even reach the medal round. It’s amazing, really. All of Germany woke up in the middle of the night to watch the finals. It is just incredible.”
Kahun’s success at the Olympics combined with the terrific year he is having for EHC München in the German DEL league – 40 points (12+28) in 41 games – has firmly placed him as a candidate to make the leap across the Atlantic and join an NHL organization next season. Even though the NHL didn’t actively participate in the Olympics, you can be sure the individual teams had scouts watching every game of the tournament to seek out hidden gems from the European circuit. If given the chance, Kahun might just turn out to be one of those gems.
While undrafted, the 22-year old playmaker is no stranger to the North American game. He spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons with Sudbury Wolves of the OHL where he put up a total 71 points (22+49) in 101 games. As evidenced by the Olympics, Kahun is also a player that raises his game when the stakes are high. For two straight seasons, he has performed at an almost point-per-game level in the DEL playoffs – leading his EHC München to consecutive league titles.
Predicting a destination for Kahun – should he field offers from the NHL – becomes a difficult task. Candidates include bottom-feeders like Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators who would likely consider signing Kahun a low-risk move with potential upside. Or why not a team with a strong Czech contingent – like Boston Bruins (David Pastrnak, David Krejci) or Philadelphia Flyers (Jakub Voracek)? Kahun was born in the Czech Republic and speaks the language fluently. To have access to such strong, Czech-speaking role models could help him settle into the league quickly.
Of course he could just opt to stay in the DEL or go to another European league, but similar to Brian Gionta who just signed a deal with Boston Bruins, it is likely the 2018 Olympics will have turned out to be enough of a showcase for Dominik Kahun to sign with an NHL team.