The first practice of the annual summer development camp was over. Consol Energy Center workers were ready to bring the Zamboni onto the ice before the second group of prospects came out. They had to wait a few minutes. Just in front of the Zamboni entrance, Penguins development coach Bill Guerin was working one-on-one with winger Tom Kuhnhackl. The two pushed and clashed in a puck battle along the boards. Guerin, known for his cutting wit as a player, was all business. "He didn't say anything," Kuhnhackl said Tuesday after the practice, then smiled. "He was just trying to get the puck -- but he didn't get it today." Kuhnhackl, 21, is making a push to get his promising career back on track. He made a splash when he was drafted in the fourth round in 2010 because of his unbridled enthusiasm, his longtime affinity for the Penguins and the fact that his father, Erich, is considered the greatest hockey player in Germany's history. Things started out well in his North American career. His first season of junior hockey, he had 39 goals, 68 points in 63 games for Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League. His star faded some over the past couple of years. In 2011-12, he got traded in-season from Windsor to Niagara, drew a 20-game suspension for a hit on New York Rangers prospect Ryan Murphy and, on the same play, injured a knee. Last season, Kuhnhackl turned pro and joined the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. That season got gutted when he got hurt in November and had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. The 45-minute practice Tuesday was the closest thing he has done to playing hockey since. His numbers in 2010-11 were better than the past two seasons combined: 11 goals, 34 points in 47 games. "I want to show them that I'm back to almost normal, that I can play hockey, that I can score, that I can protect the puck in the corner and create scoring chances," said Kuhnhackl, a strong puck-handler. He vowed that he will sit out the camp-ending scrimmage Saturday if he doesn't feel his shoulder is sound, "but the way it looks right now I feel pretty comfortable and pretty good, so I'm probably going to play." The best test came from Guerin, who made sure to test Kuhnhackl's shoulder.
Kuhnhackl tries to get career back on track
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Jul 17