It certainly feels like Germany is about to take that next step toward becoming a legitimate hockey power. After an amazing run to the gold medal game at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, coached by arguably the best German player of all-time, Marco Sturm, hockey fans in Germany and around the world are starting to realize that German hockey has quietly gained a foothold in the NHL and has now announced its presence on an international scale. With the likes of Leon Draisaitl – easily the biggest threat to unseat Sturm or Jochen Hecht as the top German to ever play – Tobias Rieder and Tom Kuhnhackl making an impact as forwards in the NHL, Dennis Seidenberg (a German legend in his own right) and Korbinian Holzer still playing key roles on the blue line at the highest level, Philipp Grubauer and Thomas Greiss doing their best to be the next Olaf Kolzig, and young Dominik Bokk set to soon join the ranks as a surefire first-rounder in 2018, the quantity and quality of German players in the NHL may be at an all-time high.
So, it’s no surprise that there is interest from NHL teams in one of Germany’s top home-grown players. Munich-based news site “Abendzeitung” sat down (link in German) with forward Dominik Kahun, one of the heroes of the German Olympic team, who said he has already received ample interest from the league. The article indicates that “the time has come” for the young German to make the jump to highest level. Kahun, 22, finished with the second-most points for Germany at the Winter Games and clearly outplayed former NHL talents like Christian Ehrhoff and Marcel Goc. His success came as little surprise to German fans, as Kahun was having the best season in the DEL, the top German league, of any of his national team compatriots. Playing for EHC Munchen alongside veteran American Keith Aucoin, Kahun is 15th in points, 7th in assists, and tied for 16th in plus/minus in the DEL so far in 2017-18. His 40 points in 41 games is tied for the fourth-best clip of any player with 40+ games on the year and is already a big step up from his 32- and 30-point totals from the past two seasons. Nearly every player close to Kahun in terms of DEL production this year is on the wrong side of 30, while the young left winger has only just begun to tap into his potential.
Kahun is not guaranteed to find immediate success in the NHL. It will take time for him to adjust to the speed and especially the physicality of the league and even the smaller ice surface. Playing on IIHF ice against non-NHLers at the Olympics was not a true indication of how he would play at the next level. However, Kahun is young enough and clearly talented enough to develop into a strong player down the road. He already possesses the all-important understanding of a complete, two-way game and is a strong enough skater to play at both ends of the ice. He also comes equipped with good stick-handling skills and offensive instincts. The right team willing to work on his development and give him chances to succeed could have a gem in Kahun.
Perhaps even more importantly, should Kahun find success in the NHL, it would continue to inspire a new generation of hockey fans and young hockey players in Germany. While the 2018 Olympics were largely dismissed by many North American spectators due to the non-inclusion of NHLers, the results still meant a lot to other participating countries, none more so than Germany. If their Olympic hero turns into the next great German NHL player, possibly playing for a long time with the likes of Draisaitl and Bokk, there’s no telling what the impact of these Games and that silver medal could have on the next class of young players and a country on the rise in the hockey world.