Blake Kessel was signed to a professional tryout today by the AHL Affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Rockford IceHogs. Although it is unclear what Kessel’s ceiling is, he is the brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel and has the ability to develop with the potential for an NHL ceiling, at minimal risk to the Blackhawks.
Kessel was drafted No. 166 in the 2007 NHL entry draft and then had a very successful college career at the University of New Hampshire where he scored 78 points in 114 career games.
The younger Kessel’s AHL experience is minimal, but in his seven games with the AHL Adirondack Phantoms last year, the now 24-year-old scored four points on two goals and two assists to go along with a career-best +4 rating. The defenseman will likely be utilized right away, as despite being one game over .500, the IceHogs have allowed a league-worst 54 goals despite having a goaltender in Antti Raanta with a .910 save percentage.
Kessel is under a Professional Tryout Contract which means he is signed for 25 games for the IceHogs, during which he can be released, and after which he can either be re-signed or designated to the East Coast Hockey League for further development.
It will be interesting to see what Kessel can become in his time with Rockford or the ECHL Toledo Walleye. That being said, there is no risk involved for the Blackhawks organization, so the signing makes sense as an addition to a bad defense now with a possible NHL future years away.
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