It’s been quite the day for Chicago Blackhawks prospect Tanner Kero. Not long after receiving the AHL’s Player of the Week award for his efforts with the Rockford IceHogs, Kero was brought up to the big-league club in place of Vincent Hinostroza, who was sent down after four games with the Blackhawks.
Chicago has scored just twice in the last 120-plus game minutes, and Kero is currently on fire in the AHL. In just seven games, Kero has recorded two goals and six assists at the center position. The move was made in part to get another youngster some big-league experience and in part to try and find a combination of forwards that spurs the Blackhawks to more than a goal a night, while also (hopefully) getting them some bottom-six offense.
Kero, 23, checks in at 6-foot, 185 pounds, so he’s a slightly bigger version of Hinostroza. Kero signed with the Blackhawks out of Michigan Tech last April and managed to get in five regular-season and six playoff games for Rockford in the 2015 postseason. In that time, Kero recorded seven goals and as assist, which is a pretty awesome professional starting point for a guy who had just finished up his college hockey career.
In four seasons at Michigan Tech, Kero played in 153 games and notched 55 goals, 56 assists. His goal and assist totals improved each season, topping out at 20 and 26 in 2014-15. He was also a plus-22 across 41 games.
So what are the Blackhawks getting with Kero, how long will he stick around and where will he slot in on the team? Let’s start with the first question. Kero went undrafted, but Hockey’s Future still had positive things to say about the Hancock, Mich., native:
“Slightly undersized, Kero has a high level of hockey intelligence and is adept at anticipating the plays and finding openings in the offensive zone. He is solid in his defensive responsibilities though his lack of bulk can be a disadvantage.”
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If Kero is considered “solid” in his defensive responsibility, he’ll fit right in with Joel Quenneville. The offensive descriptors remind somewhat of playmakers like Patrick Kane, Teuvo Teravainen and Artemi Panarin, as does the lack of size. That last point hasn’t stopped guys from succeeding before in the NHL, but it means Kero will have to work hard not to get bulled off the puck.
Kero will stick around the team as long as he’s able to make a positive impact. That’s typically been the calling card of Q and Co. when it comes to prospects, so as long as Kero tries to make things happen on offense and stays smart and active on defense, he has a good chance to stick longer than Hinostroza did. Do I think he’ll stay with the Blackhawks the rest of the regular season? No, but I’d be glad to see him prove me wrong.
As far as where he lines up, you figure Q would like to insert him right where Hinostroza was, between Teuvo and Ryan Garbutt. Hinostroza and those two proved to be an aggressive third line offensively, but they just couldn’t dent the twine (not a problem only they are experiencing). Maybe Kero’s hot stick will get some bottom-six scoring going for the Blackhawks, who have essentially none outside Teuvo’s and Andrew Shaw‘s contributions.
What do you think about today’s moves by the Blackhawks? Let us know in the comments section.