Dominik Kahun is used to this.
He’s scrapped throughout his hockey journey, trying to prove himself as a child, then in Canadian and German leagues before earning his shot with the Blackhawks. Nothing’s changed in that regard, even after getting traction in the NHL and playing on a line with Jonathan Toews and Brendan Saad.
“Hard work gets paid off,” Kahun said. “That’s what I’ve done since I was little. I never got something given to me. I always had to do it myself. I try to work as hard as possible, and it’s coming.”
The 23-year-old center has been a favorite of coach Jeremy Colliton for a while and looks like he’s turning a corner. He scored for the second straight game in the Hawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders on Thursday.
Goals get attention, and the team needs more of them from Kahun, but his play has improved steadily throughout his rookie year. In Colliton’s two months as coach, he has five goals, five assists and is a plus-7. His 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) for the season is tied for seventh on the team.
“In the past, he was playing really well and the pucks just weren’t going in for him,” Colliton said. “Now he’s finding a way to produce a few more points, but I think his play’s kinda been the same. He’s doing a good job for us.”
The Toews-Kahun-Saad line has been on the ice for seven goals scored against two goals allowed, according to the analytics website Left Wing Lock. Hawks goalies have a .976 save percentage when that line is playing.
The numbers show part of his impact, but Colliton is equally impressed by the aesthetics.
He noted Kahun’s quickness and grit at the NHL Prospects Tournament last fall and has seen the same with the Blackhawks. He’s one of the smaller players on the roster at 5-11, 175 pounds, but somehow makes up for it.
“He wins a lot of loose pucks,” Colliton said. “He’s not a big guy, but he’s able to win puck battles even against heavier opponents. He makes a lot of plays, he advances the puck and he finds a way to put the guys he’s on the ice with in a better spot.”
Kahun grew up in the Czech Republic and Germany and turned pro at 19. He scored 35 goals to go with 70 assists in 124 games over the last three seasons with EHC Red Bull München.
He wants be that type of player for the Hawks, too, and is trending that direction. It’s helped him to get an extended run with Toews and Saad as Colliton settles into line combinations, and he’s becoming surer of himself within the system.
Things like that always take time. Maybe at this point, halfway through the season, it’s been long enough.
“I’m more confident to make the plays,” Kahun said. “That’s why I came to the NHL. I can make plays. I can skate. That’s what I try to do more and more.”
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