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Penn State Hockey: Kerr Just Another On Growing List Of Productive Nittany Lion Defensemen

by on March 01, 2016 6:00 AM

As Penn State freshman defenseman Kevin Kerr raced down the left side of the ice last weekend with the puck on his stick he faced two choices.

Dump the puck into the zone with an Ohio State player closing in on the boards.

Or try and use speed to beat his man with speed alone.

It turns out Kerr picked a third option. A slick step to the right, dragging the puck with him and going around the Buckeye defender into the zone. The crowd responded in kind, a few rows near the play with a collective gasp as Penn State's 6-foot, 195 pound defenseman made a play a forward might make. If the likes of David Goodwin or Alec Marsh had pulled it off, it would have just been another entry into the zone, but defenseman aren't supposed to be quick on their feet and smooth with the puck.

But welcome to hockey in 2016.

"I think what you're seeing in front of your eyes and what you're seeing in college hockey is sort of mirroring what you're seeing in the NHL as well," Penn State coach Guy Gadowksy said on Monday.

"And I believe in today's game you need mobile defensemen, what you see is not only Kevin Kerr's mobility but how he sees the ice and that's the biggest part of it, and when you pair him with a guy like Luke Juha who sees the ice equally as well, they can get a lot done in a different way than the Chris Prongers did in the past and I think that's the way that hockey is going."

It's that formula of aggressive defensemen that has helped Penn State's offensive production stay at nationally high levels despite losing the likes of NHL product Casey Bailey and assist machine Taylor Holstrom in the offseason. Freshman defenders Kerr and Vince Pedrie alone have combined for 10 goals and 25 assists. The top two pairing combos of Juha and Kerr along with Pedrie and Eric Autio have amassed 18 goals and 53 assists. Just a small dent in the team's 126 tallies, but an extremely respectable level of production for a fairly young defensive grouping.

"Growing up I always used to make those moves," Kerr said of his movement with the puck. "Maybe a little head fake and move the opposite way things like that, it just comes with being confident, I've always had the confidence that I could do it, but it comes with having the confidence showing that I can do it out there. It has been awesome, all year we've been really active, whether it's pinching down the wall or getting into the zone rather than a system where we may not have as much leniency to move around so the offensive system that we play definitely fits the style of our defenseman."

For Kerr, a Philadelphia native, he doesn't have to look far to find a player like him in the league. Flyers' rookie defenseman sensation Shayne Gostisbehere has turned heads all year with his powerful shot and elusive nature with the puck on his stick. Kerr may have work left to do before he's truly getting compared to a rookie of the year candidate, but the comparisons in playing style are there to be made.

If nothing else it's something to look up to.

"It has been a blast to watch him," Kerr said. "I watch him every chance I can, watch highlights of him, he's someone I really look to model my game after."

And even with years of development and playing still to be had at Penn State, the Nittany Lions' best offensive players aren't overlooking the explosive nature of their defensive counterparts.

"David Glenn and I probably once a game  are on the bench and Kerr or Perdrie does some incredible," Forward David Goodwin said. "And we just go "wow, that was pretty incredible" so yea, we're constantly in awe of some of the ability of guys like Kevin and Vince."



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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