2008-09: Tom Kuhnhackl played for the Landshut Cannibals in Germany’s 2nd level men’s league. In 42 games, Kuhnhackl scored 11 goals and added 10 assists for 21 points. In 6 playoff games for that club, he scored 1 goal.
2009-10: Spent most of the season with the Landshut Cannibals, but also saw some action in Germany’s top league, the DEL. Kuhnhackl played in 38 games with the Cannibals, scoring 12 goals and adding 9 assists for 21 points. In 4 DEL games with the Augsburg Panthers, Kuhnhackl did not register a point. Played for Germany at the U-18 World Junior Championships (Group B), scoring 4 goals and 2 assists for 6 points in 5 games.
2010-11: Kuhnhackl made his North American debut with the Windsor Spitfires, where despite a slow start, he finished as one of the top players in the entire OHL. Through 63 games, he managed 39 goals and 29 assists. His performance in the playoffs for Windsor was even more impressive as he posted 11 goals and 12 assists in only 18 games. Midway through the season, the Penguins expressed their confidence in Kuhnhackl by locking him up to an entry-level deal.
2011-12: Kuhnackl had a difficult second season in junior hockey. After skating in four games with Windsor he was traded to Niagara but appeared in just 30 games for the IceDogs. He missed 20 games for a suspension on an illegal hit on Kitchener defenseman Ryan Murphy. In 34 regular season games with the two teams he scored 8 goals with 21 assists and was plus-14 with 35 penalty minutes. With several high profile prospects, the IceDogs reached the OHL finals. Kuhnhackl scored 6 goals with 5 assists and was an even plus/minus with 14 penalty minutes in 20 playoff games.
2012-13: Kuhnackl played just 13 games in his first pro season. A healthy scratch early in the year, he played 11 games with Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate before suffering a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in December. He scored 2 goals with 2 assists and was +3 with 10 penalty minutes. Wilkes-Barre Scranton finished third in the AHL’s East Division and reached the Eastern Conference Finals against Syracuse. Kuhnhackl began the year with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers — playing two games and finishing +2 with 1 goal and 2 penalty minutes.
2013-14: Kuhnhackl skated in 48 regular season games and two playoff contests for Penguins AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in his second pro season — splitting the year between the Penguins and the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. He scored 8 goals with 2 assists and was -4 with 22 penalty minutes during the regular season — scoring four of his eight goals on the power play.The Penguins finished second in the East Division and reached the AHL Eastern Conference finals. Kuhnhackl had no points and 2 penalty minutes in the playoffs. He scored 7 goals with 7 assists and was +10 with 12 penalty minutes in 16 regular season games for Wheeling. The Nailers reached the second round in the playoffs and in 10 playoff games Kuhnhackl scored 6 goals; finishing +3 with 6 penalty minutes.
2014-15: Kuhnhackl skated in a career-high 72 regular season games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in his third season. He scored 12 goals with 18 assists, both career highs, and was +10 with 19 penalty minutes. The Penguins finished second in the East Division and reached the second round in the playoffs. Kuhnhackl had 2 assists and was +1 with no penalties in eight playoff games. He signed a one-year contract extension with Pittsburgh in June 2015.
2015-16: Kuhnhackl made the Penguins out of training camp in his fourth season in the Pittsburgh organization, missing six games with an undisclosed injury before being assigned to the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Earning the trust of head coach Mike Sullivan — who would take over as head coach of the parent club when Mike Johnston was relieved of his duties in December — Kuhnhackl made his long-awaited NHL debut in a January 9th game against Montreal and was a consistent contributor during the Penguins’ torrid second half. In 45 regular season games Kuhhackl scored 5 goals with 10 assists and was +3 with 24 penalty minutes, averaging 12:12 minutes of ice time. He continued to produce in the playoffs, scoring 2 goals with 3 assists and a +3 plus/minus through nine games, averaging 12:30 minutes of ice time. Kuhnhackl scored 7 goals with 8 assists and was +10 with 18 penalty minutes in 23 AHL games prior to being recalled. Kuhnhackl signed a two-year contract extension with the Penguins in March 2016.
Kuhnhackl demonstrated during his junior career the potential to be a complementary goal-scoring forward but struggled with injuries and consistency early in his pro career. Possessing a good wrist shot in tight, Kuhnhackl does his best work in the slot and around the net. He is particularly competent without the puck and seems to innately find open ice and scoring lanes. He needs to work on being more of a two-way player to succeed at the professional level.
Kuhnhackl made his NHL debut with the Penguins in January 2016 after playing well for Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate in the first half of the 2015-16 season. Whether he was a beneficiary of the coaching change in Pittsburgh or that was merely a coincidence, the 24-year-old exceeded expectations playing under head coach Mike Sullivan. With the speed and positional awareness to play the Penguins' up tempo game, Kuhnhackl appears to have carved out a niche as a two-way forward and penalty killer with Pittsburgh.