Just for a quick refresher: Karson Kuhlman was undrafted and won the NCAA title with the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in 2017-2018 before signing his two-way contract with the Boston Bruins on April 10, 2018. He makes $750K with the big club and $70K in Providence with zero performance bonuses. This year was his first year in professional hockey, and he scored 30 points with Providence over 58 games.
Down the stretch and with the Bruins playing well, coach Bruce Cassidy called up Kuhlman to finally get him a look at the NHL level. For flashes, Kuhlman was just the injection that the second line needed. With some extra wheels on his wing - and Kuhlman has wheels - center David Krejci had two high-speed threats, and Kuhlman also showed a strong game in the neutral zone and along the offensive boards in making himself available as a pass option. The line was a possession machine and Kuhlman was a positive contributor, whether you look at #fancystats or traditional plus/minus.
Kuhlman showed similar prowess in the playoffs. Though he did lose his lineup spot to Chris Wagner in favor of additional experience and a little extra size, Kuhlman performed well over the Toronto series and stepped up in the Finals after Wagner went down with his arm injury - and, it’s hard to say that Kuhlman wouldn’t have been a valuable addition anyways. He scored his first career playoff goal in a critical Game 6 in St. Louis to help keep Boston alive in the Finals.
As with most young forwards coming up (and, again adding the caveat that this is a very limited sample size), the remaining concern with Kuhlman is consistency. His regular-season scoring came over four of the eleven games he played, so he’s not yet established a night-in, night-out routine at the NHL level. His ice time in the playoffs was mildly reduced from the regular season, which wasn’t a ton of time to begin with, basically only skating with Krejci and DeBrusk at even strength.
Hard to elaborate more, as it’s been a limited sampling of the player thus far, but I think we can look forward to a more thorough viewing next season.
Player Rating: 5.6
Kuhlman’s first career goal back in February was a product of many other slick plays, but a goal is a goal is a goal.
How about this snipe in the Cup Final, game 6? What PLACEMENT.
We should figure to see more of Kuhlman this year, for sure. Otherwise, whatever development he made last year and over the summer will go to waste.