Kuehnhackl had no idea who his father really was
Tom Kuehnhackl also had a famous father. Erich Kuehnhackl was the Wayne Gretzky of German hockey. Only, Tom had no idea his dad did anything more special than scramble his eggs in the morning.
Erich Kuehnhackl had 724 goals and 1,431 points in 774 German league games in a 21-season career, and he represented West Germany in the 1976 and 1984 Olympics. He was named German hockey player of the year three times, was voted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1997, and was named German hockey player of the century in 2000.
But Erich retired in 1989, and had moved on with his life when Tom was born in 1992. And rather than relive past glories, he lived in the present -- coaching and being there for his family.
"I never saw him play," Tom told NHL.com. "I had no idea my father was a great hockey player when I was young."
Then one day, rooting around his house, Tom came across a DVD. After he watched what he saw on the screen, he never viewed his father the same way.
"He was on there, and then a reporter said (to Erich), 'You were a great hockey player,'" Tom said. "That's how I knew my dad was a great hockey player."
Today, Tom Kuehnhackl is on his way to fashioning his own career as a pretty good hockey player. A 6-foot-2, 172-round right wing, he had 12 goals and 21 points in 38 games with Landshut in the German league's second division.
He's the No. 8-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft, June 25-26 in Los Angeles.
"Tom is a surprisingly mobile, good skater for a player of his size," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "He has a very good understanding of the game and has good offensive instincts. His overall skill level is good."
He'll work on improving that skill level next season with the Windsor Spitfires, where he'll be counted on to play a major role on a two-time Memorial Cup champion that could lose nine of its top 10 scorers from last season.
"He's an elite-level guy," Windsor coach Bob Boughner told NHL.com. "It's going to take an adjustment period, but I think after Christmas and moving forward, you're going to see him have an impact for us. … He's going to have a learning curve and once he figures it out and learns what we're expecting, he'll be a top-six forward."
That's a hefty amount of pressure to put on a player, but Kuehnhackl feels he's ready for it.
"Windsor is one of the best junior teams in Canada," he said. "For sure now I want to play there. I have to play the best hockey that I ever played before."
"I never saw him play. I had no idea my father was a great hockey player when I was young."
-- Tom Kuehnhackl
"That was a mistake," Kuehnhackl said of staying in Germany, "because I didn't get a lot of ice time and I was just on the bench."
He won't be on the bench long in Windsor, and he'll get all the playing time he can handle.
"I want to improve myself in every kind of stuff you need in hockey," Kuehnhackl said. "Upper body (strength), lower body, skating. Best way to do it is to play in Canada. In Germany you can improve yourself, but not as good as in Canada."
And if Tom had any doubts about leaving home, he knows now he's got someone pretty knowledgeable there to help him.
"I ask him for advice on everything," Tom said of his father. "If he can help me in some kind of stuff in hockey, and he always helps me."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org