Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Yahoo! Sports Canada has been profiling some of NHL Central Scouting's top prospects during the countdown to June 25-26 entry draft in Los Angeles. It turns out we gathered more than required. Here is a look at Windsor Spitfires import Tom Kuehnhackl, the eighth-rated European skater.

Tom Kuehnhackl is the first player in quite a while who came to Windsor for more ice time.

Kuehnhackl stands to benefit from a move to North America. Spitfires GM Warren Rychel, who selected the 6-foot-2, 172-pound right wing 24th overall in last summer's Canadian Hockey League import draft, has a lot of scoring prowess to replace after successive championship seasons. Kuehnhackl, whose father Erich was named German hockey's player of the 20th century, will get every chance to fill that void.

As a teenager playing with pros, Kuehnhackl often saw spot duty the past two seasons with his hometown Landshut Cannibals, a German second division team. He made the most of the chances he did have to show his offensive gifts, though, posting a respectable stat line last season (12 goals, 21 points in 38 games) despite sporadic ice time, a separated shoulder and often skating on an all-teenager line. He also earned a brief call-up to the country's top league.

By his acknowledgement, he will need time to adjust to the pace and physicality of Canadian major junior hockey. At first glance, his build might suggest a future centre back for Bayern Munich more than a top-six forward in the NHL. However, keep in mind his father, who played at a hulking 6-foot-5 and 213 pounds in the 1970s and '80s, had the splendid sobriquet Kleiderschrank auf Kufen (wardrobe on skates). It's reasonable to think his puck-chasing progeny will, in time, bulk up to complement his skill.

Kuehnhackl's roommate at the NHL Scouting Combine was the Portland Winterhawks' Swiss star, Nino Neiderreiter, a possible top-10 pick. The pair will likely cross paths, since Switzerland and Germany are in the same pool at the 2011 world junior championship.

"I want to have a chance to beat him," Kuehnhackl says.

1. How would you say your past season progressed, from start to finish?

"I tried to come to Canada last season, but thought it was better to stay one more year in Germany. I'd be with family, my friends. I thought I would get a lot of ice time and I ended up sitting on the bench for almost the whole season. That was the worst decision I ever made my whole life, that was more reason to go to Windsor and get experience.

"I played with men, but for sure, it was frustrating for me. It was a challenge. I was working out every day and then I'd get maybe two, three shifts each period, sometimes sit on the bench for an entire game. There were some games where I got a lot of ice time due to injuries or suspensions."

2. In your mind, what would scouts say you have to work on between now and when you'll be on the cusp of turning pro?

"I have to work on everything. Nothing is ever perfect. Maybe for [Sidney] Crosby or [Alex] Ovechkin. Maybe. First of all, the skating is really important and the physical part, coming from Germany to Canada. I would say those two parts first, then shooting, passing. Upper body [strength], I have to work on through the summer."

3. How do you feel about coming to play in the Ontario Hockey League with Windsor?

"I'll try to help them and maybe they'll get the Memorial Cup hat trick. I'll have to work my ass off, but maybe we'll get the chance ... I will do everything to help that team, block a shot with my face, whatever.

"That was amazing when Mr. Rychel came over. We went for dinner and then we talked about everything, the team, the city, next season, the host family." 

4. What do you consider your proudest hockey achievement?

"I'm proud to be the son of my dad, absolutely. First it was hard for me because there is not a lot of people who like my dad, who love him, because of hockey. He'd get slashed. But I'm proud to be the son of a great hockey player.

"When I was young, I had no idea my dad was a great hockey player. One day when I was five or six I was going through the basement, I found the DVD. I watched it and my dad was on, it was from the 1976 Olympics, Germany won the bronze medal. They won 4-1 and he had two goals and set up two goals -- a perfect game."

5. Favourite TV show or movie?

"Favourite movie is The Fast and The Furious. I love fast cars. TV show is Two And A Half Men."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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