Tanner Kero frustrated by AHL demotion, but what did he expect?

The Blackhawks forward has proven to be a fringe player at the NHL level.

Apparently Tanner Kero isn’t thrilled with his current assignment in Rockford. The forward spoke to the Daily Herald’s John Dietz recently, and said he “wasn’t too happy” upon discovering he was being demoted to the AHL after being healthy scratched in Chicago much of the season.

"I know I can play at that level," Kero said Saturday. "When I found out I was coming down here, obviously I wasn't too happy about it. But at the same time you never know when you're going to get that chance again. So I just had to try to be positive and come down here with the right attitude."

That’s understandable for a player who is 25 years old and effectively in the prime of his career. Nobody wants to ride buses in Rockford when they can play under the bright lights of the United Center. Kero hasn’t let his frustration coalesce into something bigger yet, either.

But at the same time, we’re talking about Tanner Kero here, right? The undrafted center who has 22 points, bad possession numbers, and a 45 percent faceoff rate in 72 career NHL games? The guy who has three points in 10 AHL games since being demoted?

Kero’s frustration at being benched and reassigned to the AHL isn’t surprising, but the fact that he’s now in Rockford shouldn’t be. The forward simply hasn’t done much to signal he’s anything more than a fringe player who can put up decent numbers in the AHL or hold his own in the NHL, but little more. He’s not an answer to any of the Hawks’ problems in the bottom six. He’s a serviceable stopgap player who is best utilized as organizational depth.

And that’s precisely how the Blackhawks have used him over the past two years, so it really shouldn’t serve as a surprise to anyone when he’s shuttled off to Rockford in favor of younger, more intriguing players like Vinnie Hinostroza and David Kampf. Kero’s time as a prospect was when he was 23. Now set to turn 26 in July, he’s no longer a piece for the future.

Maybe Kero finds his way back to Chicago this season, via an injury or a trade or another development, but this is hardly the story of an NHL-caliber player being inexplicably pushed aside. He’s gotten over 70 games worth of chances at that level, and he never really stood out.