The New York Islanders brought in Tom Kuhnhackl as a depth forward and he ended up in their top-six. Here’s how his wild 2018-2019 went.
Last July, the New York Islanders added a ton of depth players in both free agency and trades. One of those depth guys was former Stanley Cup Champion Tom Kuhnhackl. For just $700,000 it was assumed that he would, at best, be the Islanders 13th forward.
That’s how the season started for Kuhnhackl, he started as just an extra forward who would occasionally get some playing time. Oddly enough, the first point of his Islander career was a goal coming against his former team the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kuhnhackl’s best game of the year came in November against the Vancouver Canucks. He netted two goals including this highlight reel goal that has to go down as the highlight of his season and possibly even career.
Just incredible stuff from Tom Kuhnhackl. See, putting pucks on net can have its benefits! Just as Tom after this one.
Kuhnhackl would hit a bit of a slow patch, not scoring another goal in 19 straight appearances. His fourth and final goal of the season would come on March 1 against the Washington Capitals.
Now, naturally we know Kuhnhackl isn’t a goal scorer so why do I bring this up? Well, Kuhnhackl wasn’t playing a fourth line role. If he was, there would be no issue at all, he’s a fine fourth line guy so if he put up four goals it doesn’t really matter.
For a good chunk of his games, he was playing on the third line, which is a role that doesn’t really fit for Kuhnhackl. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. By the end of the year and in the playoffs, Kuhnhackl made his way up to the Islanders second line.
Due to injuries and Anthony Beauvillier struggles it was Tom Kuhnhackl who found himself playing with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. Woof.
In the playoffs he was fairly productive, putting up three assists in eight games and nearly scoring a goal in Game 1 before it was called back for offside. Even in his small doses, he’s not a sustainable option in the top six.
Yes, there were flashes of competency playing in the top-six but for more than a few shifts it gets old and stale pretty quick.
Tom Kuhnhackl did pretty much everything I thought he would this year for the Islanders production wise. He was good on the penalty kill and he brought a physical presence. He was just out of position in the top-six.
He seems like a C+ to me. He was fairly okay in his 34 games (9 points) and didn’t really do anything wrong this year. He’s a wallflower, so he gets a wallflower grade for his season. As a free agent, he might look to land a more full-time role, something the Islanders probably can’t offer.