Tempering expectations for Kevin Hayes

August 21, 2014, by


Kevin Hayes is the most hyped College Free Agent since Justin Schultz and the Rangers signing him to a contract despite fierce competition around the league is indeed a coup for the club; however immediate expectations will need to be kept in check despite his burgeoning reputation. Particularly from our excitable fan base.

Hayes fills a need for the Rangers, but possibly not in the short term. With Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Marty St Louis and Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers are very well catered for on the wings in their top six. Go a little deeper and you have the likes of Carl Hagelin and Lee Stempniak who are looking for bigger roles. In short, Hayes will not have it easy breaking into the line-up straight away in a position that will aid his development.

This is without considering whether Hayes is even pro-ready, whether his skating (a minor concern, if you believe the media) is good enough to start in the NHL or whether the Rangers feel he would be better served, short term, with bigger minutes in the AHL to begin his pro-career.

Make no mistake, Hayes will have likely been promised an opportunity to make the big club otherwise he wouldn’t have signed in New York and he has the size and skill to definitely make an impact but rookies don’t often crack a contending team’s line-up at the first attempt. The depth at his position in Chicago was the main factor he left the Windy City but given his Entry Level, deal the Rangers will still control his fate so the minors seems a realistic starting place.

If Hayes makes the Rangers immediately, it will be because he’s blown away the management with his pre-season and training camp performances and therefore he’ll have deserved it – obviously a scenario both sides would like to see happen. However, don’t forget he’ll also be competing with the likes of JT Miller, Jesper Fast and Danny Kristo for a spot in New York, even just for the spot of first offensive call-up. A realistic scenario will see Hayes start the year on an ever-increasingly stacked Wolf Pack forward unit where he’ll need to force his way into the NHL reckoning.

Surely the immediate, best case scenario for Hayes and the Rangers is that Hayes forces his way onto the third line through a strong pre-season, then gets sheltered minutes and helps the Rangers have the deepest set of wingers in the Eastern Conference. In this kind of scenario, production is still hard to gauge. If he plays a full year in the NHL it’s difficult to project what a pure rookie with zero pro-experience can contribute. Relative veterans such as Benoit Pouliot were able to chip in modest production totals and that’s without the media hype/pressure surrounding them.

Hayes will face pressure, expectancy and doubters but he has a better chance of success in New York than he did in Chicago. That’s why he’s here. With the long term futures of Zuccarello (contract) and St Louis (age) in question, a strong start to his pro career in the minor leagues would still give him a chance of long term success.

Hayes has skill and he has size and his package and pedigree are somewhat similar to Chris Kreider, albeit without the college consistency Kreider enjoyed. If Hayes gets anywhere near what Kreider has already achieved it will be a successful acquisition for the Rangers.

"Tempering expectations for Kevin Hayes", 5 out of 5 based on 6 ratings.
Categories : Prospects


  1. Seahorse says:

    Best case scenario he plays a full season third line with a line of 10-20-30 and I would take that in a heartbeat

    • Seahorse says:

      Dave, can he be retroactively added to the traverse city roster or is it too late for that

  2. Johnny Red says:

    I have been critical of Sather before so I now MUST give him kudos for his signings and drafting this year. With no 1st round pick for 3 years he managed to draft Buchnevich and Duclair in the 3rd round when many believed they were 1st rounders. Hayes is NOT a NCAA free agent like others we have signed. He’s a 1st round pick who didn’t sign with the team who drafted him. No one knows what he’ll become but the potential is there.

    • Paulronty says:

      Sather didn’t draft anybody. Gorton and Clarke are the true genius behind the Ranger resurgence. The best trait evinced by Slats is that he has learned to take direction from his advisors.

    • Centerman21 says:

      Like you said the Rangers haven’t had a first round pick in the past two drafts and don’t have one in 2015. However, they’ve managed to find a diamond in the rough each draft. I think they did pretty well this past draft as well. Adding Hayes, the 2010 24th overall pick was a huge move wether he makes the NHL right from jump street or if he needs a few weeks in Hartford to get his feet wet in the pro game.
      The thing that worries me is if he’s ready for the physicality of the pros or the the savvy veterans able to outwit him. He has to be able to use his size to his advantage and work out real hard to get as strong as he can before preseason starts. I think he like Kreider at first was used to being the biggest skater on the ice able to just go through the defense. He won’t pull that off here.

      I really hope he is able to catch the eye of AV and makes the team out of camp but that may not be the best thing for him. I do know that AV is always looking for that guy to be the net front pressence for screens and tips in front. Kreider hasn’t been great at it positionally yet and no one else is really big or strong enough to pull that off. He will make the team if he can be that guy and will even get some TOI on the Power Play. This was a big addition to the team and makes the offseason that much better with limited money to spend this summer.
      Much of Hayes near future depends on how Lombardi fits into the equation. If he looks like he can spark the same kind of dangerous 3rd scoring line then I think he centers a line with Hagelin and Stempniak and Hayes either goes to Hartford or plays 4th line RW.

  3. wwpd says:

    tempering expectations already? c’mon let us be excited for a couple of days at least!

  4. SalMerc says:

    This gives the NYR options. And with a tight CAP, options are a good thing. He may make the club. He may make Hags expendable. With the still-unsigned-after-next-year Stall, I would not be surprised to see Slats combine a wing and Stall to get a legit center. Would Colorado take a package of Hags, JT and Stall for ROR? If they would, I would take it.

    • WilliamW says:

      I would not.

      ROR is a very similar player to Stepan (25-40 center in league) so you’re not really upgrading the 1C spot but rather the 2C and 3C spots as Brassard moves down. More importantly, you’re opening up huge holes at the 2LD and 3LW, which are key strengths of the team. There’s no one in the system to replace Staal and Hagelin / Miller are cost controlled

      You’d be paying ROR and Stepan $6+ mm a piece next year and Brassard $5 mm. That’s a lot for solid but not outstanding center depth

      • Walt says:

        Agree with everything you said my friend!!!!!

        I’ve read that this Hayes kid can play all the forward positions, why trade for a center, he may be utilized at that position??????? If not, he will play one of the wings, so be it. I don’t see us unload Hags anytime soon, the kid is just too good at what he does!!!!!!!

      • SalMerc says:

        Just watch. This Hayes signing is a setup for things to come. ROR is better than Stepan because he is tougher. Besides, after Step and Brass, the drop is very significant. I doubt you put this kid at center. We need depth down the middle and now have a glut of wings. Do the math.

  5. WilliamW says:

    Kreider is definitely not the right measuring stick. Hayes’ most talked about issue is his skating, which is Kreider’s greatest strength. Pouliot’s 2013/14 season is probably his ceiling as a full adjusted NHLer: 15g/20a w/ 50% of his goals on the PP

    He’ll likely start in CT.
    In my opinion: 1)He’s not going to beat out Miller for a center spot, didn’t even play it college; 2) Not going to beat out Fast / Stempniak for the 3RW spot; 3) He’s not going to play on the 4th line and take the tough D minutes

    Would be great if I’m wrong but my expectations are very tempered

  6. Chris says:

    I wasn’t suggesting Hayes could play at center but Miller could compete for a wing spot so they’re definitely in competition in some form. I see him starting in HFD too.

    Ref Kreider, I wasnt comparing their skating (clearly, Kreider is a far superior skater) but the BC connection, the hype, the size, the position, the organisation they both enter the league in, the potential… they’res definitely parallels.

    I too have tempered expectations (no need to force him too soon) but I am definitely excited at his potential. And there’s no risk.

    • WilliamW says:

      I like the signing and potential as well but I see a number of others in system as being further advanced for 3rd line duty (Miller, Fast, Lindberg) as well as having higher upside for top 6 duty (Miller, Buchnevich, Duclair)

      I view him as most comparable development wise to Kristo. If he becomes a solid 3rd liner that’s great, you can always use those. If not, that’s fine too, he’ll be a good player in Hartford who can be called up in case of an injury

  7. James Carr says:

    How does a line of hayes miller and Kristo sound as the third line for the 2015 – 2016 season

  8. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I think he gets a long look just as Haggerty and Kristo will. He will for sure get a stint some time this year. This was just simply an outstanding move the Rangers made. So many options the Rangers have now, from trade aspect to depth. My main concern with the Rangers roster is Staal and what his plans are. If he will not sign with us I prefer we trade him sooner rather than later. God forbid he gets hurt and we lose value on him.
    I think Fast will be the next regular starting the season. I like the depth of this team because if McIlrath is ready also then the Rangers really have all the bases covered because of the addition of Dan Boyle. Tanner Glass and McIlrath cover the nasty, Boyle will be the PP QB…Nash replaces Pouliot on the Brass line, MSL with Step and Kreider…Hags with Stempniak and Miller and Fast with Moore and Glass.
    On D it will be McD and Girardi, Staal and Boyle and Moore and Klein. Goalies are obvious with Lundqvuist and Talbot. Spares will be Kostka or Allen, Mueller or Lombardi. This is my guess for the opening day line up. As I look at it it definitely gives us a roster where a trade will happen to bolster either a solid righty or a top 6 center.

  9. Paco 33 says:

    The expectations for Hayes should be the same as with any 1st round pick – relatively low over the short term and very high over the longer term. Although, since Hayes is 22 and not 18, his long-term window is actually pretty damn short – like he probably needs to start the season in Hartford and excelling by early 2015.

    The key here is that Sather (and his staff) have done a great job signing undrafted free agents (Bodie, Haggerty, McCarthy) and now a former first rounder to to give us the kind of organizational depth we lost by trading three first round picks.

  10. Jake says:

    He said he’s comfortable playing any forward position and he played center before being put on the line with Gaudreu and Allen.

  11. Tom says:

    I have no idea what this kid can be heard the reports but I don’t watch much college hickey gonna have to wait till pre season to see

  12. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I watched a few BC games last couple of years and I kept hearing his name on the broadcast. He was even mentioned more in those games that Kreider played in. That was all I heard, Hayes this and Hayes that and to boot he scored. He was very noticeable

  13. bernmeister says:

    Respectfully OP is well meaning but wrong.

    You want synergy, something above and beyond what you expect because similar talents do more than the same number working individually.

    Ideally huge Hayes + large Kreider with the right C, = a power line. The one best fitting that bill is JT Miller, like 6.1″ish.

    But if Hayes can also play C, so much the better.
    We know he has great vision.
    Are his quick passing and skating up to NHL level pivot, esp. at higher end? Then by all means, Hayes at pivot with Kreider on left and Nash before he is traded (and with that contract, it is not a matter of if but when), or, post-Nash, my bet is Haggerty.

    So no holding back on Hayes.

    If/when Hayes cuts it at C, instead of waiting til Stepan has less value because as RFA he’ll command 6,6.5 m per, trade him now for an insane profit.