News broke on Saturday night that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks swung a pretty significant trade sending defenseman Olli Maatta to Chi-town for forward Dominik Kahun. Pittsburgh also adds a fifth round pick in the trade.
The writing was on the wall for Maatta to be shipped out of town given he had a poor 2018-19 season and was a healthy scratch for the last three games of the playoffs.
Moving forward, what can the Pens expect out of Kahun? What kind of player is he? Let’s dive into a quick and dirty Saturday night scouting report.
Quite the interesting and unique career path, and certainly a path less traveled. Kahun came to the OHL as an import player, but never really got on track and went undrafted in 2013 and 2014 and then went back to Europe. He played in the German league, and did well in the 2018 Olympics scoring five points (2 goals plus 3 assists) in seven games. Chicago signed him for last season and as a 23-year old NHL rookie he put up 37 points in 82 games in the show.
This is quite favorable, Kahun will be on the second and final year of his entry-level contract in 2019-20 that is a $925,000 salary cap hit. He will be a restricted free agent in summer 2020. That’s good news for the Pens to shed Maatta at his $4.083 million cap hit for a forward at under a million.
Assets: Has a fair amount of skill and playmaking ability for the highest level. Can play all three forward positions, which also adds to his overall value to a team. Is fairly responsible, too.
Flaws: Lacks size and strength, so he needs to prove himself in North American professional ice surfaces (which are narrower than those in Europe). Needs to shoot the puck more.
Career Potential: Skilled, versatile forward with some upside
2018-19 season performance
As an NHL rookie last year, Kahun had a pretty decent year. From Second City Hockey last month:
With 13 goals and 37 points, Kahun tied for eighth place on the Blackhawks. Artem Anisimov scored more goals than him, but Kahun had more assists. At 5-on-5, Kahun’s points per 60 (1.89) and primary points per 60 (1.59) were both fifth on the team. He had the seventh best wins above replacement with a .8 and the seventh best goals above replacement with 4.8 among the Blackhawks.
Not to totally kill Kahun already, but a young-ish, not big, not physical player born in Czech, doesn’t score a ton of goals (13 in 82 games last year) but has solid rate stats and helps be a secondary option? Sounds a bit like another Dominik, Dominik Simon. Kahun probably has a bit more playmaking ability though, so I’m not saying they’re clones or anything, but the similarities definitely rang a bell for me. Especially with’s SCH’s summation:
Kahun should continue to have an important (if reduced) role with the Blackhawks next season. He’s a player able to be plugged in to the middle six and can, on occasion, play on the first, should the need arise
The fanciest of stats
SCH explained this:
The positive ~1 Kahun has in each of offensive goals for, expected goals, and Corsi, as well as defensive expected goals, means he’s about .5 to .67 standard deviations better than the average - basically it means Kahun’s doing his job well. The negative one in power play goals for and Corsi means he’s one standard deviation worse than the average on the power play, which is... not good
Kahun only had two power play points all season in 87 minutes so, yeah, if that’s any indication, he shouldn’t be used with that group. But he is a positive player at even strength and good things happen with him on the ice at 5v5, which is good!
This is a pretty sight to see, lots of offensive chances for Chicago last year when Kahun was on the ice. However, like many of his teammates, it looks like Kahun didn’t suppress a lot and was often playing in a “run-n-gun” style with lots of activity at both ends of the ice, because check out his rates against.
So, stylistically Kahun should definitely fit in with a Pittsburgh team that also is high octane and unafraid to exchange chances at both ends of the rink. And this is a point to showcase a difference from Simon, who is able to suppress shots against.
Nice to see him go to the net, and there was a bit of a repeated habit of scoring goals off redirects or broken plays or little things in front like that. So some nice hands on display, but it’s a highlight reel of goals and he only scored 13 in 82 games so also keep that in mind.
When the Pens were a great team they had second and even third options on lines. Call them passengers, supporting players, whatever you want. Guys like Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust. I’m not sure Kahun is in the mold of most of those players who were all dogged forecheckers, but Kahun already showed he could score 37 points in the NHL in 14 minutes a game. If he can be good for about a point every other game like that and add depth in the top-nine, that is good.
Better, the Pens badly needed the salary cap flexibility and dealing a $4 million defenseman for a $925k winger makes a lot of sense too.
This doesn’t look like a slam dunk great trade on day one, but it helps rebalance a team that was too heavy on salary commitments on defense and needed a bit more skill up front. This deal seems to offer that, with a qualifier that Kahun isn’t likely to be a difference making player. He’s a guy on a team, but proved in 2018-19 that he can be a productive one in spurts and help at 5v5 on any line you want to put him on. Players like that are useful and the Pens should put him to good use.