Every year in the NHL there is always a highly-regarded unsigned college player or European star being hyped up. This summer it’s been Kevin Hayes, a 2010 draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, who failed to sign with the team by last weekend’s deadline, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Last season with Boston College, Hayes scored 27 goals and was second in the country with 65 points helping the Eagles reach the Frozen Four.
Here’s Lambert last week on Hayes:
He's also pretty safe in his own zone, and in fact was deployed as a defenseman for a time earlier in his college career, when BC simply ran out of healthy bodies to put on the blue line. He didn't expose himself too badly there. One thing he's not, however, is suited to play an “energy” role. He's big and he can throw the body around if need be, but that's not his game and asking him to play it is a misuse of talent. In short, he's a big, heavy, high-scoring, 22-year-old left-shot right wing (and occasional defenseman) who can take a draw if needed, who isn't afraid to play physical, who has the upside to play in the top-six.
Hayes had his options. He could have joined brother Jimmy with the Florida Panthers. He could have reunited with his Boston College linemates Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary. He could have stayed local and signed with the Bruins, but their cap situation is tight and they still need to re-sign Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. Instead, he'll now reunite with former teammate Chris Kreider.
The Rangers landing Hayes makes sense given their history of pursuing college kids. This year alone they signed RPI’s Ryan Haggerty, Union’s Mat Bodie, and Vermont’s Chris McCarthy. The signing also gives New York a first round prospect after two years of not picking in the opening round.
In New York, Hayes will have a shot to make the team out of training camp. The Rangers don’t have the big prospect pool like Chicago does and given how the Stanley Cup finalists were raided in the off-season, Hayes’s chances to play in the NHL next season look very good.
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