Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The addition of Dominik Kahun opens the possibility of uniting McNuge

Over the weekend, I did a What Would You Do Wednesday SATURDAY EDITION post about how the Oilers should roll out their lines and pairings on opening night come (hopefully) January.

Naturally, shortly after this post went up, news came out that the Oilers had added another player to the mix. A German outlet reported that the Oilers and Dominik Kahun had agreed to a one-year deal and, on Monday, the team confirmed the deal was complete.

The addition of Kahun opens up new possibilities for Dave Tippett when it comes to organizing the team’s forward group.

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First and foremost, who is Dominik Kahun? And what can we expect from him?

Kahun is a Czech-born forward who was raised in Germany. He played junior hockey with Leon Draisaitl in Mannheim and travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to play in the OHL in 2012. He spent two seasons with the Sudbury Wolves and got passed in the NHL draft and then returned to Germany to play professionally in the DEL.

After a few strong seasons playing for Red Bull München and an impressive showing for Team Germany at the 2018 Olympics, Kahun inked a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. He spent one year in Chicago, tallying 13 goals and 37 points, and signed the following season in Pittsburgh. Kahun recorded 10 goals and 27 points in 50 games with the Penguins before getting traded to the Sabres, where he would score four points in six games.

The impressive part about Kahun is that his production comes almost entirely at even-strength. Between his first two seasons, Kahun averaged 2.07 points-per-60-minutes, the 69th best mark among forwards, sandwiched between Vladimir Tarasenko and Mathew Barzal. That’s some nice company.

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What does that mean? Who was he played with? And in what roles? Here are the two major roles Kahun has played in over his 138 games in the NHL and how the lines performed…

Kahun spent most of his time in Chicago in a top-six role alongside Toews and DeBrincat. In this situation, Kahun was tasked with going up against the other team’s best competition and the trio broke even in terms of goals while also outshooting their opponents.

Kahun’s time in more of a sheltered situation in Pittsburgh yielded better offensive results. The duo of Kahun and Jared McCann (with a revolving door of wingers like Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist) dominated against lower competition, outscoring opponents 18-to-10.

For me, what this shows is that we’re going to see the most offence from Kahun if he plays in a sheltered role, perhaps with Kyle Turris and Jesse Puljujarvi. But it also indicates that Kahun is good enough to be a complementary player on a top line that faces elite competition. That role in an Oilers’ context, of course, would be playing with his good friend, Leon Draisaitl.

Last season, Draisaitl spent most of his time playing alongside Kailer Yamamoto, who was called up from Bakersfield in late-December, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The trio was unbelievable. Saying that they were the best line in hockey isn’t at all an exaggeration.

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The Draisaitl, Yamamoto, and Nugent-Hopkins trio played 317:37 together at even-strength and outscored their opponents by an obscene mark of 28-to-8.

The one downside of this line is that it left Connor McDavid all alone. His most common linemate was Zack Kassian, who has consistently been an effective presence on his right, but the Oilers couldn’t find the ideal left winger to complete the trio.

What you want in a winger who plays with McDavid is somebody with wheels who can keep up, smarts and skills in the offensive zone to make plays, and a good two-way game. McDavid makes a lot of boom-bust plays in which he rushes up the ice and his linemates need to be ready to cover for him.

Nugent-Hopkins is a really, really good left winger for McDavid. Beyond the obvious stuff of Nugent-Hopkins having the speed and skill to keep up with McDavid offensively, he also plays a very responsible defensive game. That opens up McDavid the opportunity to take risks on the ice to create big plays.

This is why adding Kahun could be huge for the Oilers. If Kahun can effectively slide in alongside Draisaitl and Yamamoto — based on his play with Toews and DeBrincat it appears as though he can handle this kind of role — then it’s much easier for Tippett to unite McNuge.

Rolling with a top-nine that features Nugent-Hopkins, McDavid and Kassian, Kahun, Draisaitl, and Yamamoto, and Tyler Ennis, Kyle Turris, and Jesse Puljujarvi has the potential to be the deepest, most effective forward group we’ve seen in Edmonton in quite some time. Kahun might be the missing piece to making it all work.

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