Kevin Hayes is one of the biggest names playing at the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan. Heck, he's been one of the biggest names in hockey this summer. That's because his senior season at Boston College was so scintillating that teams were fiending to sign him up once it became apparent he would not sign with the team that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Though talk of Hayes' free agency was rampant for most of the summer, the power forward only had to officially think about after Aug. 15, when he could begin negotiations with teams, as per the collective bargaining agreement.
“I couldn't talk to anyone until late August,' he said. "Once that hit, it was pretty hectic. We figured New York would be best for the short and long-term.”
Hayes has been playing center in Traverse City, most recently on a line with Quebec's Anthony Duclair and fellow college boy Ryan Haggerty. Though he hasn't dominated the scoresheet, Hayes has looked pretty good and can play in his own end. At Boston College, he played wing on an already legendary line with Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold, both of whom are now with the Calgary Flames. The trio put up a boatload of points for the Eagles and Gaudreau won the Hobey Baker for his efforts. Gaudreau told me earlier this summer that he tried to get Hayes out west, but obviously it didn't work.
“Him and Billy tried," Hayes said. "I don't think it was the right fit for me. Calgary is a great organization, but we had to go different ways. We had our time in college and I'm really happy with my decision.”
Two players he did listen to were Rangers speedster Chris Kreider and new Tampa Bay center Brian Boyle, who helped New York to the 2014 Stanley Cup final. Kreider and Hayes played together for two seasons at B.C., while Hayes and Boyle work out together every day in the summer back in Massachusetts.
On the surface, it might seem nuts to turn down the powerhouse Blackhawks, but look at from the perspective of a kid who wants to play: Chicago has insane depth up front, whereas the Rangers have a bit more daylight on the depth chart. New York hasn't guaranteed that Hayes will be a full-time Blueshirt rather than a super rookie in the American League, but that wasn't a big part of the negotiation.
“I'd hope I would have a shot wherever; I'm confident in my abilities," he said. "There are spots to be taken in New York and I'm hoping to grab one in camp. I'm a big guy who skates well and wants to contribute on the scoresheet. Hopefully I can go in and keep playing like I did last year, using my body and being a power forward.”
And if he can ring up points in the NHL like he did in college, it'll be a big coup for the boys in blue.