A newer prospect placed into the system, Kuffner signed with Detroit in March after inking a two-year entry level contract. While being overshadowed by Taro Hirose’s breakout success, the potential still remains high for the Ontario native.
Drafted: Signed as a free agent
Weight: 194 lbs
Birthday: Jun 12, 1996 (23)
Latest team: Grand Rapids Griffins
After a few years playing in a minor midget hockey league, Kuffner transitioned to the CCHL where he would play for the Gloucester Rangers for 3 years and total up 115 points (55-60-115) in 101 games. His time there earned him honors such as being the CCHL Player of the Month and earning a spot on both the 2015 WJAC Team Canada East and the CCHL Yzerman All-Star Team. Additionally, Kuffner was a representation for Team Canada at the 2015 World Junior A Challenge in 2015.
During the previous 4 years at Princeton University, he became the university’s all-time leading goal scorer with 75 goals in 132 games. In the 2018-19 season, Kuffner led the ECAC and was fourth in the nation with 22 goals. His PPG reached 1.419 which was good enough to be the best in the nation. His campaign with Princeton also saw him help the Tigers to a Tournament Championship and roster spot in the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament.
His time at Princeton achieved Kuffner multiple merits, the most noticeable of the bunch being a Hobey Baker nominee, 2 time ECAC Player of the Month, 5 time ECAC Player of the Week, ECAC Player of the Year finalist, NCAA First Star of the Week, GPT Athlete of the Week, and three Richard Vaughan Cups.
His NHL debut came on March 16th of this year against the Islanders and averaged 10:56 minutes a night for a total of 10 games.
The sample size in the NHL for Kuffner is small given he only played 10 games with minimal ice time with an offensively challenged bottom 6. Primarily going off his time with Princeton, Kuffner has a nose for the net and made himself a dominant force each and every shift. He worked in tough areas on the ice in battles but still generated plentiful offense. His skating skills are strong and he has a great shot that will most likely translate into a weapon in the NHL. His efficiency in finding open ice and willingness to pass the puck are two additional strong points to his game that suggest he can be an significant playmaker.
Kuffner was never drafted by the NHL or the Ontario Hockey League but he has since turned his undrafted status into fuel to keep him focused and offensively hungry. There is a lot of upswing to his game with signs he can develop into a much needed two-way player for the Wings.
Kuffner’s prolific scoring and hardworking attitude is why he is in the mid-tier of the prospects, but his inability to translate any offense in the NHL bumps him down. He’s currently taking residence in metro Detroit, living with Patrick Holway, as he continues to improve on his individual skills and body strength as he did during development camp.
But for Kuffner to make sense on the Red Wings, he’ll need regular minutes and line mates that can boost his productivity. Given the roster cram the team is currently under, it makes more sense for him to develop in the AHL and be able to log more minutes.
His best-case scenario in my opinion would be an 2nd line winger in the NHL. A worst case example would be an AHL career player or frequent healthy scratch for the Wings 4th line.