When Dominik Kahun came to Pittsburgh from Chicago via trade this past off-season, the Czech-born winger had a rep as someone who could skate with good players. Kahun played on a line with star center Jonathan Toews for a good part of last season.
But when the 2019-20 campaign started, Kahun didn't play much at all. He was even a healthy scratch for the Nov. 2 home loss to Edmonton.
"When you come to a new place, you've got to get used to everything," Kahun said. "It took me a little bit 'til I got going. But now I feel like myself."
That's reflected in Kahun's numbers.
After getting just two assists in his first 11 games as a Penguin, Kahun has since got seven goals and six assists in 15 games. He's had three points in a game twice. His ice time has swelled. Kahun's 15 points place him seventh on the team.
"He's a big reason why we've been able to grab points over the last few weeks," Coach Mike Sullivan said after Kahun's goal helped the injury-riddled Penguins top Vancouver, 8-6, on Nov. 27. "He's been a point-a-game guy over the last dozen games."
Sullivan says that he and the coaching staff weren't rattled by Kahun's slow start: "We've always felt that he has great instincts and is a good hockey player.
"He's more comfortable and he's playing with a whole lot more confidence. He's more familiar with his surroundings both off the ice and on the ice. He's building relationships with his teammates and coaches, and he's getting more comfortable with the details of how we're trying to play."
Kahun worked hard to get more comfortable: Not long before that win against Vancouver, he stayed on the ice for 45 minutes after practice wrapped.
"I always try to do a little extra," said Kahun. "Take some shots, or skate a little bit, or get a feeling for the puck. It gives me confidence for the game.
"You always see me work hard for the team. Doesn't matter if I play good or not, but I always work, that's for sure. That's always a positive for me. I can make plays with the puck, and make passes, and I can score goals. I think I'm doing OK."
Kahun, 24, is cursed by versatility. He bounces all over Sullivan's lineup.
"I did that a little bit in Chicago last year," Kahun said. "Sometimes on this line, sometimes on that line. I get used to it.
"Sometimes it's not easy when you play four games on the left wing, then go to the right wing. Everything is a little different. But I get used to it."
Perhaps Kahun's signature moment as a Penguin to date came in the team's 3-2 overtime win against visiting Calgary Nov. 25.
There was just over a minute left in OT when Kahun skated up ice with the puck and some room. But Kahun was tired, so he pulled up, dangled, bought time for a change, then found Jake Guentzel streaking toward Calgary's end. Guentzel scored to win the game.
"I skated back and forth twice already in the overtime," Kahun said. "It looked like I could have a breakaway, but I didn't have much energy. I knew I couldn't just give the puck to them. I had to make a play. So I found [Guentzel} and he made a nice shot."
Kahun is part of a new wave of youth, speed and energy that has gradually joined the Penguins since the beginning of last season.
"We've got speedy guys," Kahun said. "I like [Brandon] Tanev. He's flying around. He brings good energy."
Kahun was undrafted. He played four seasons with Red Bull Munich in the German league before a solid performance (two goals, three assists in seven games) representing Germany at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea earned him a silver medal and caught the eye of Chicago, who signed him for the 2018-19 season.
Kahun had 13 goals and 14 assists in 82 games during his rookie NHL season with the Blackhawks.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).