Their needs were pretty apparent.
Everyone knew going into Monday’s trade deadline that the Buffalo Sabres needed to address their need for a second-line centre and a second-line right-winger. While they were unable to solve their issues at centre, the addition of 24-year-old Dominik Kahun may have solved their problems on the wing.
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He may not be one of the big names that have been spoken about for months but Kahun looks to be a pleasant surprise that can help the Sabres push for a playoff spot this season and in the seasons to come.
The price was certainly right. In shipping out Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues, the Sabres moved on from two assets that were more than likely not going to be back. Rodrigues, for his part, asked for a ticket out of town back in December and was finally granted his wish.
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Who is Kahun and what can he bring the Sabres? Let’s dig into some numbers to look into the possibility of a diamond in the rough that general manager Jason Botterill may have unearthed.
Who is Kahun?
A native of the Czech Republic, Kahun moved to Germany as a youth and plays for Germany in international hockey play. At the 2018 Olympic Winter games, Kahun scored five points in seven games to help lead the Germans to a silver medal.
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Never drafted, Kahun played two seasons with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL before joining EHC München of the DEL in Germany. In four seasons, he mustered 111 points in 157 games, with another 38 points in 49 postseason games.
In 2018, Kahun signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. After only one season, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenceman Olli Maatta. So far in his NHL career, Kahun has amassed 64 points in 132 games.
Kahun has certainly been used differently by his first two teams. With the Blackhawks, he primarily spent time with Jonathan Toews and Alex Debrincat. With the Penguins, he served much more of a depth role, skating alongside Jared McCann and Patric Hornqvist. Interestingly enough, Kahun was actually on a better point pace with the Penguins than the Blackhawks, no doubt a product of him becoming more comfortable and finding his groove in the league.
What are the Sabres acquiring in Kahun? What can they reasonably expect from him going forward? A number of aspects with regard to his impact are similar to a core piece they already have in the lineup.
Kahun’s Impacts Similar to Sam Reinhart
Although Kahun’s point totals have not been anything spectacular to this point, the way he goes about acquiring them has a striking similarity to Sam Reinhart. Reinhart is poised to anchor the top-line right-wing slot for seasons to come. Kahun’s ability to play a similar style will make him useful on the second line. Looking at their impacts at five-on-five according to Evolving-Hockey illustrates this.
First off, their shot rates are very similar. For every hour on the ice, Reinhart averages 53.6 shot attempts for and 51.98 against for a difference of 1.62. Kahun averages 52.35 attempts for and 50.32 against for a difference of 2.03.
When it comes to how they attack the zone, both go about it the same way. In terms of the quality of chances they generate, Reinhart has an expected goals rate of 2.04 per hour with a 9.93 shooting percentage. Kahun has an expected goals per hour rate of 2.2 with a 10.57 shooting percentage. They may not generate scoring chances in bulk, but they cash in on what they do create.
A goal of Kahun’s has been making the rounds on the internet. Seen below, he undresses a sprawling defender and deposits a beautiful backhand shot in the New Jersey Devils net. Granted, not every goal will be quite this pretty, but Kahun has a tendency to find the soft spots in the offensive zone and push toward the net for opportunities, much like Reinhart.
A final area where Kahun and Reinhart are similar is in their point production rates. Reinhart produces 2.344 points per hour while Kahun averages 2.409. The only difference is in how they’re used. While Reinhart gets premier ice-time on the top line, Kahun has seen similar deployment to Kyle Okposo. No doubt with increased opportunity Kahun’s point totals will continue to rise.
We’ve seen some similarities in his game to that of Reinhart. Granted, both have different body types and playing styles, but both can also have very positive impacts on the roster. How can we be sure that Kahun can be an answer for the Sabres’ top-six?
Kahun Can Be a Great Fit For Sabres
As we talked about before, Kahun was mostly buried in a depth role with the Penguins. To fully appreciate what he can mean to the Sabres, let’s look at what he’s done with his limited ice-time with the Penguins.
According to Evolving-Hockey, Kahun averaged 0.89 goals per hour, ranking seventh on the Penguins. On the Sabres, that scoring rate would rank fifth ahead of the likes of Jeff Skinner, Marcus Johansson and the departed Sheary and Rodrigues.
Kahun’s 2.41 points per hour ranked sixth on the Penguins but would be fourth on the Sabres behind only Jack Eichel, Victor Olofsson and Reinhart. His 50.99 percent control of shot attempts were ninth on the Penguins but would be second on the Sabres, behind only Johan Larsson.
A particularly attractive aspect of Kahun’s game is his ability to control shot quality. With the Penguins he was 11th, controlling 50.49 percent of the expected goals. On a Sabres team that tends to struggle with quality control, Kahun would rank fourth, better than Eichel, Reinhart, Olofsson, Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin.
In no way does this mean Kahun is a superior player to these players. The level of skill that is present in the Sabres’ top-six forwards is elite. His skillset in puck control should have a particular benefit to Skinner, should they have the opportunity to play together.
In any event, this trade deadline can generally be looked at as a success for the Sabres. They didn’t mortgage the future but managed to find a piece that could be a solution for the long-term. Can Kahun help them make a playoff push? The odds are long but he has that opportunity.