Last week I looked at one possibility for the Oilers' second choice in the second round [#48 overall from Nashville], Martin Marincin, the hulking Slovak defenseman. This week I submit a possibility for the Oilers' second pick, the 31st overall. He's yet another European player that few have heard of - Tom Kühnhackl, a 6'2" 172 lb forward from the Landshut Cannibals, playing in the second division of the German league.
Kühnhackl turned pro at the age of sixteen and in his sixteen and seventeen year old seasons, he posted better than .5 points per game in the German second division. He's not as well known as he should be as he was forced to withdraw from the World Junior Championship due to injury. Had injuries not befallen Kühnhackl, it's likely that he would be a mid-first round lock this June.
Tom is the son of Erich Kühnhackl, considered the greatest German hockey player ever, and voted as such in the year 2000. Erich broke into the Bundesliga at age eighteen, and in his second full season he would record 28 points in 35 games - his career low. Dad totaled 1500 career points in Germany, leading the league in points eight times and he was a seven time all-star. Erich also won three Bundesliga championships. He won a bronze medal in 1976 at Innsbruck and played in two other Olympic games and in ten World Championships. He appeared in over 200 international games, a German record. If there ever was a player with a pedigree heading into a draft, Tom Kühnhackl is your man.
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.