The Rangers agreed to terms with rookie free agent Kevin Hayes. The former Blackhawks’ 2010 first round pick opted not to sign with the club who took him. The deadline expired last Friday allowing Hayes to become unrestricted. Less than a week later, he chose New York over rumored suitors Boston, Calgary and Colorado.
At 22, the younger brother of current Panther Jimmy Hayes is coming off a breakout year with Boston College. After putting up decent numbers his sophomore and junior seasons, he erupted for 27 goals, 38 assists and 65 points, which ranked second best to linemate Johnny Gaudreau, who won the Hobey Baker. Listed at 6-3, 205 pounds, the left-handed shooting forward combines size and speed with the ability to finish. However, prior to his senior year he only totaled 17 goals. Is he a late bloomer or the beneficiary of being surrounded by great talent? Hayes played with Gaudreau and Bill Arnold, who like Johnny Hockey is a Flames prospect. A Calgary fourth round pick in 2010, Arnold was more consistent during his collegiate career hitting double digits in goals every year and posting at least 35 or more points his final three years at BC. That included his best output of 14 goals and 39 assists totaling 53 points in ’13-14.
It’s curious as to why Chicago didn’t sign Hayes prior to the Aug. 15 deadline. Editor’s Note: Correction. It was actually Hayes who refused to sign with a team that’s won two of the last 5 Stanley Cups. According to a post from Black & Blueshirts blogger Melissa Andus, Hayes had “character issues” which included a suspension during his junior year stemming from an incident at a BC dorm. The details are well known and cringe worthy. According to Andus’ sources, that wasn’t the only issue. Anytime a player of this nature becomes available, you have to think character comes into play. Especially with it involving one of the NHL’s premier franchises. Of course, the Hawks boast better prospects including highly rated Teuvo Teravainen and former 2013 first round pick Ryan Hartman.
None of this means Hayes won’t have a successful NHL career. It all depends on him. Like Ranger prospects Ryan Bourque, Jesper Fast, Ryan Haggerty, Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg and J.T. Miller, he’ll get the chance to compete in training camp for a spot. Competition comes from Matt Lombardi and Chris Mueller. When it comes to young players, never assume anything. I’m excited for Hayes but at the same time guarded. That comes from understanding development. Don’t assume he just blows everyone away and jumps right into the NHL. Remember Chris Kreider as exhibit A. While he had a dream run in the 2012 playoffs, he didn’t become a full-time regular until after Alain Vigneault sent him down to Hartford following a disappointing preseason. It had zilch to do with John Tortorella. Only once Vigneault liked what he saw did Kreider stay and fully develop.
You can’t rush prospects. I prefer to see the Rangers do it the way Detroit does. They are patient and give kids a taste before sending them back down for more development. No wonder Gustav Nyqvist looks like the next sensation followed by Tomas Tatar. Everyone’s already projecting Anthony Mantha following a monster year in the QMJHL that saw him score 57 goals and 120 points in 57 games. But he’s only 19. Coincidentally the same age as Rangers’ 2013 third rounder Anthony Duclair, who had a similar breakout in the same league notching 50 goals and 99 points in 59 games. Duclair turns 19 on Aug. 26. Already you’re seeing other Rangers bloggers tout him. Be careful. Duclair should also be part of Traverse City and training camp. It’ll be interesting to see how he does. I’ll echo the same for Hayes.