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Dominik Kahun coming on strong as rookie for Blackhawks

Dominik Kahun is used to this.

He has scrapped throughout his hockey journey, trying to prove himself as a child, then in Canadian and German leagues before earning his shot with the Blackhawks. Nothing has changed in that regard, even after getting traction in the NHL and playing on a line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad.

“Hard work gets paid off,” Kahun said. “That’s what I’ve done since I was little. I never got something given to me. I always had to do it myself. I try to work as hard as possible, and it’s coming.”

The 23-year-old forward has been a favorite of coach Jeremy Colliton for a while and looks like he’s turning a corner. He scored for the second straight game in the Hawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders on Thursday.

Dominik Kahun has two goals in his last two games. | David Zalubowski/AP

Goals get attention, and the team needs more of them from Kahun, but his play has improved steadily throughout his rookie season. In Colliton’s two months as coach, Kahun has five goals and five assists and is a plus-7. His 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) for the season are tied for seventh on the team.

“In the past, he was playing really well, and the pucks just weren’t going in for him,” Colliton said. “Now he’s finding a way to produce a few more points, but I think his play’s kinda been the same. He’s doing a good job for us.”

The Kahun-Toews-Saad line has been on the ice for seven goals scored vs. two allowed, according to the analytics website Left Wing Lock. Hawks goalies have a .976 save percentage when that line is playing.

The numbers show part of his impact, but Colliton is equally impressed by the aesthetics.

He noted Kahun’s quickness and grit at the NHL Prospects Tournament last fall and has seen the same with the Hawks. He’s one of the smaller players on the roster at 5-11, 175 pounds but somehow makes up for it.

“He wins a lot of loose pucks,” Colliton said. “He’s not a big guy, but he’s able to win puck battles even against heavier opponents. He makes a lot of plays, he advances the puck and he finds a way to put the guys he’s on the ice with in a better spot.”

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Kahun grew up in the Czech Republic and Germany and turned pro at 19. He scored 35 goals to go with 70 assists in 124 games the last three seasons with EHC Red Bull München.

He wants to be that type of player for the Hawks, too, and is trending in that direction. It has helped him get an extended run with Toews and Saad as Colliton settles into line combinations, and he’s becoming surer of himself within the system.

Things like that always take time. Maybe at this point, halfway through the season, it has been long enough.

“I’m more confident to make the plays,” Kahun said. “That’s why I came to the NHL. I can make plays. I can skate. That’s what I try to do more and more.”

NOTE: The Hawks are bringing back a member of their 2013 Stanley Cup team. Former defenseman Sheldon Brookbank is joining the coaching staff. He’ll be with the team when it visits the Penguins on Sunday.

Coach Jeremy Colliton is bringing Brookbank up as an assistant after two seasons at Rockford. Brookbank coached under Colliton.

The Hawks also announced that development coach Anders Sorensen will fill Brookbank’s spot in Rockford under interim coach Derek King. Sorensen has been in the organization for five years.