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Chicago Blackhawks: Kero’s Start Earns Top Prospect Status

By Skylar Peters
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The Chicago Blackhawks have been a force in the NHL for the past several seasons, and their draft-and-develop strategy can take much of the credit.

Good amateur scouting, and solid performances on draft day, coupled with patience by management, has let their prospects reap the rewards of their time in the minors, and make an impact immediately once they make a jump to the pros.

However, the Blackhawks’ dominance at the NHL level means there isn’t a lot of tweaking to be done to the roster, and their prospects have to bide their time, playing in most cases, a couple of years with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs before becoming a full-time pro.

That doesn’t mean they don’t get their first taste early on, however. IceHogs such as Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, and Marko Dano have all spent time at the NHL ranks, but are currently riding the bus in the AHL.

It can be a frustrating, slow process for some. However, if the first fortnight of the AHL season is any indication, Tanner Kero won’t be one of those players.

The ‘Hogs are off to an 1-3 start, but Kero has had no such trouble kicking his season off the right way. After a three-point night in their first game of the season, Kero has paced the IceHogs thus far, averaging a point-per-game.

Kero, who was signed out of college by the Blackhawks last April, is no stranger to scoring the big goal. Kero had seven game-winning goals for the Michigan Tech Huskies last season, and has the IceHogs’ lone game-winner so far this year. The Michigan native was coming off a career-high in points for the Huskies in his senior year, when he signed with the Blackhawks, and promptly joined the ‘Hogs for the remainder of the season.

He made an impact instantly, notching five goals in six regular season games, and carried his weight in the playoffs as well, with a 2-1-3 stat line in 6 games.

With his knack for hot starts now turning into consistency, Kero has caught the eye of some in Blackhawks’ circles, and it’s only a matter of time before Blackhawks’ management does, too.

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The Blackhawks have had a quite mediocre start to the season, with a 3-3 record after 6 games. In a lineup where many new faces are in new places, nothing is for certain, and now is a better time than ever to give a player like Kero a 1-2 game tryout with the big club.

Though he doesn’t have the experience of his Rockford teammates Dano, Danault, or McNeill, Kero certainly has the hot stick, and his energy could be helpful to a Blackhawks team that is only at the .500 mark, and just lost their best defenceman for at least a month.

For the long-term, the Blackhawks will need to see more consistency from Kero at the AHL level before they consider a full-time NHL spot. As Blackhawks’ fans know, that can be an infuriatingly long time, and it may never come. Jeremy Morin or Marko Dano, anyone?

Though the ‘Hogs themselves have some work to do to reverse their slow start, the Blackhawks and their fans can hope for more of the same from Tanner Kero. If he delivers, they may be seeing him don the Indian Head sooner than they think.

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