What to Expect from Kevin Hayes

Hayes SHG (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Kevin Hayes is on the rather lengthy list of New York Rangers players that are about to enter their prime. There is a common thread with these player previews; it is time to take the next step.

There’s a reason Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller occupy the same line; they are for all intents and purposes the same type of player. Therefore it will come as no surprise when my criticisms and expectations are parallel.

Good with the bad:

Hayes is, at least to me, the most frustrating player on the team. Kreider, Nash, and any other streaky player does not bring out the frustration Kevin Hayes does. It’s not just me he frustrates; Hayes at times frustrates the coaching staff too. To simply put it Kevin Hayes is like a puppy. Someone to get excited about, a lot of fun to watch play, but give him the chance and he can also make quite the mess.

Another pass-first playmaker, Hayes essentially can make any pass tape to tape. With Derrick Brassard and Derek Stepan now gone Hayes just may be the best passer on the team. 2016-17 saw a stat line of 17 G, 32 A, 49 P in 76 games. He essentially had the same year as Sam Gagner, so for those asking why the team didn’t try to sign him it’s because they have him.

Another player that had a career year last season, that stat line is admirable. This is where the frustration stems from. With the talent, passing ability and line he plays on at times you could argue that Hayes could have had a better season by 10+ points. The worst part is only eight points came on the power play. This is where Hayes should tally easy stat boosts.

*To preface, I am not saying Hayes is anywhere near the caliber of player as Backstrom.* Kevin Hayes should be able to produce like how Nicklas Backstrom¬†does on the Capitals. Last season 35 of Backstrom’s 86 points came on the power play, with 27 coming from the assist. Hayes should be able to strive with the man advantage especially with his passing ability. I’m not saying Hayes should have 86 points, but he should have a huge portion of his points come from the power play, he should not and cannot be a non-factor a man up.

Expectations:

Hayes at practice (NYDN)

Again Hayes is a young player with talent and at times shows glimmers of brilliance. At times he shows his age and youth and makes bad, bad, bad mistakes. Both he and Miller will go hand in hand. Goals may vary and assists may vary, but for one to have the season the team needs, the other one has to as well. Hayes will improve his career numbers and end up with 15 goals, 40 assists and 55 points.

Similar to Miller, Hayes also needs to not channel his inner Casper the friendly ghost during the playoffs. The power play, the offense and the second line depend on number 13 improving in all areas. Guaranteed to be a center he needs to improve his face-off percentage as well (45.7%). The whole team is only as strong as the weakest link (cliche I know).

Hayes’ role and expectations at times make him the weakest link. Live up to the expectations or continue to frustrate fans, only time will tell.