Tempering expectations for Kevin HayesAugust 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",