Wyatt Kaiser debuts in Blackhawks’ hard-fought loss to Coyotes

Kaiser played fairly well in 16:11 of ice time, but the Hawks conceded three goals in the third period to fall 4-2 and split the season series against Arizona.

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Blackhawks defenseman Wyatt Kaiser battles for the puck.

Blackhawks defenseman Wyatt Kaiser made his NHL debut Saturday against the Coyotes.

Rick Scuteri/AP

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Blackhawks have watched many players make their NHL debuts this season, but perhaps none have arrived with futures as promising as Wyatt Kaiser.

So Kaiser’s performance Saturday in the Hawks’ 4-2 loss to the Coyotes was particularly heavily anticipated and also particularly heavily scrutinized. The 20-year-old rookie defenseman passed the test well enough.

“He was everything we heard about him,” coach Luke Richardson said. “He’s competitive, he’s not afraid to get in there and his feet are really good for his speed, so he surprised a few guys. He gets in there quick and gets his stick on pucks.”

Six days after his Minnesota-Duluth college season ended, four days after he signed his entry-level contract and two days after his first Hawks practice, Kaiser logged 16:11 of ice time while slotted on the third pairing with Nikita Zaitsev.

He was credited with one hit, one blocked shot and zero shots. During his five-on-five ice time, the Coyotes produced a slim 6-5 advantage in scoring chances.

“I played a pretty solid game — pretty simple, nothing too crazy,” Kaiser said. “[I] made a few iffy plays, but [I’m] still learning the systems and figuring everything out.”

His abilities to transition the puck with his legs and also make smart breakout passes are his strongest assets. He demonstrated both on a few occasions Saturday — with his parents in the crowd — but will likely make more of an impact once he gets more comfortable.

The Hawks, as a whole, also played fairly well but didn’t get a victory to show for it. The Coyotes tied the game with 14:00 left, took the lead on a delayed-penalty goal with 3:12 left and then added an empty-net tally.

“We outplayed them for almost the whole game,” Jarred Tinordi said. “We played the way we wanted to. It’s unfortunate that the little mistakes that we did make ended up in the back of our net.”

Added Richardson: “We didn’t make many [turnovers], but when we did, they were at the wrong time. We’re getting better in those areas, and unfortunately tonight, the one or two that we did make, [Clayton] Keller and those type of creative players around the ice made us pay for it.”

The Hawks’ 34-21 edge in shots on goal marked just the third time this season they’ve finished with a double-digit advantage in that regard, and all three have come against the Coyotes.

But Saturday’s result nonetheless sealed a split in the season series, with the home teams winning all four meetings. The Hawks fell back into 30th in the NHL standings.

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