The Bruins put their best foot forward in an attempt to land another hometown hockey prospect, but instead former Boston College star Kevin Hayes joined the enemy New York Rangers in Gotham City. The Dorchester, Mass., native made his decision to go with the Blueshirts on Wednesday morning, according to ESPN’s John Buccigross.
The 6-foot-4, 216-pounder picked New York over the Bruins, Avalanche, Predators and Penguins, and ended a nearly week-long decision period that had several NHL teams vying for his services. It was solely up to Hayes, 22, after he couldn’t come to agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks, who drafted him in the first round back in 2010, and was made an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 16.
Hayes was limited to signing an entry-level contract with whichever team he decided on, so he could potentially be a bargain value for an NHL team looking for a talented right wing. Hayes was looking for a good chance at an NHL job to start this season, and also has past history with the Rangers’ Chris Kreider after they played on the same line in Hayes’ freshman season at the Heights.
The Bruins did their best recruiting job this week while genuinely interested in the talented cousin of both B’s prospect (Ryan Fitzgerald) and assistant director of amateur scouting (Scott Fitzgerald), and were in the running until the end.
Still, it would have been difficult for the Black and Gold to guarantee Hayes an NHL job right out of training camp. They have vacancies at right wing given the departures of Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton, but they also a boatload of forward prospects (Ryan Spooner, Alex Khokhlachev, Matt Fraser, David Pastrnak) ripened and ready to compete for NHL jobs.
Hayes clearly has the size and skill that Boston covets after finishing second in NCAA hockey with 65 points, including 27 goals, in 40 games for BC last season, but it remains to be seen how much of that offense translates from college hockey to the NHL. Hayes has the size and some good skill around the net, but there are also talent evaluators that feel there’s some Blake Wheeler in his game: ideal size and good strength coming out of college, but doesn’t always play to both of those around the net to go along with the excellent skill package.
It’s likely that the Bruins brass had a potential third-line role in mind for Hayes alongside Carl Soderberg, with the possibility he could have climbed up to the top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci if his game developed quickly. Instead, he joins a Rangers team that’s coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, and appears likely to replace Benoit Pouliot on the third line after his departure to Edmonton via free agency.