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Chicago Blackhawks: Grading Tanner Kero’s NHL Start

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Tanner Kero has had a memorable start to his professional hockey career.

After signing with the Chicago Blackhawks last spring following his final season with the University of Michigan Tech Huskies, Kero immediately joined the Blackhawks’ farm team, the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. In his first six games of pro hockey action, the then-22-year old scored five goals, and was a valuable asset for the IceHogs as they returned to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time in five years.

Coming into training camp in late September, excpectations were high for Kero in his first full season of AHL hockey, and through seven games, he did not disappoint. Kero scored six goals and one assist in that span, and by then, he was impossible to ignore.

Blackhawks’ General Manager Stan Bowman made the call to Rockford for Kero, and he joined the Blackhawks just hours later. Kero didn’t have to wait long for his opportunity to play in the NHL, as just one game after he was recalled, he was in the starting lineup for the Blackhawks against the Winnipeg Jets.

Kero finished that game with a -1 rating and four shots, and failed to register any points. Through the first four games of Kero’s NHL career, he is still searching for career point #1, while averaging just under 12 minutes of ice time per/game.

Kero was thrust into the third-line center position, playing with Bryan Bickell on the left, until he was sent down to Rockford in favour of Marko Dano. Ryan Hartman was a staple on the right side through all four games.

Though Kero couldn’t register a point in his first several games of NHL action, his offensive power is certainly visible. Kero provided a great pass to Hartman for a sure tap-in goal on Wednesday night, which would have likely sealed a Blackhawks’ win, but Hartman couldn’t convert.

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It is easy to see Kero as an opportunist, which sometimes hinders his presence in the defensive zone. He is always looking for the puck, leaving him slightly out of position at times, though nothing glaring has been brought to light just yet.

Kero is a left-handed shot that has done fairly well at the face-off dot so far, recording a 54.6% win percentage against the Blues, after going for just 28% the game previous, in the ‘Hawks win against the Los Angeles Kings.

Blackhawks’ Head Coach Joel Quenneville has shown his trust in Kero, selecting him for a line in overtime on Wednesday alongside Marko Dano and Teuvo Teravainen, who both scored earlier in the game.

Kero survived the first test on Thursday, as the ‘Hawks sent Hartman down to the AHL, so it looks like he will be here to stay for a little longer. Marian Hossa‘s lower-body injury has impacted the ‘Hawks lineup significantly, and once he returns, we could see a new face alongside Kero and Dano on the third line, though we are still awaiting Hartman’s replacement on the right side for the time being.

What do you think about Kero’s start? Let us know in the comment section below!

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