By Matt Calamia
Over the last several years, Boston College products have treated the Rangers well. They’re hoping that continues with the addition of forward Kevin Hayes, who agreed to terms with the Rangers on Wednesday afternoon.
“The coaching staff [in New York], everything going on there kind of fits what I was looking for,” Hayes told BlueshirtsUnited.com after the signing was announced.
“Just coming to New York will be a great opportunity for me and my family,” Hayes added. “Seeing how successful they’ve been the last couple of years was really a reason why I ultimately chose the Rangers.”
Hayes, 22, is coming off a tremendous senior year with Boston College. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward posted 27 goals and 65 points in just 40 games last season.
In total, the Dorchester, Mass.-native finished his collegiate career with 44 goals and 132 points and a plus-37 rating in 142 games.
“He’s a big man that has all kinds of skill, nice hands, hockey sense,” Rangers Assistant General Manager Jeff Gorton told BlueshirtsUnited.com. “We just saw him as — once he became available — as a guy that’s pretty close to playing. He has a lot of the things we’re looking for.”
That style should fit in well with Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault’s up-tempo, puck possession game, which Hayes said he’s looking forward to having the chance to be part of.
“I really like the way AV plays,” said Hayes, who added that he’s comfortable playing any forward position, including center. “He likes to score goals and be responsible defensively as well. I think that’s a style I like to play.”
Hayes was originally selected 24th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 NHL Draft. But the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a contract, and Hayes became a free agent earlier this month.
Gorton said with the lack of first-round picks over the last several years due to other transactions, signings like Hayes help to restock the farm system a bit.
“I think it’s no secret that we’ve made some big moves to get Marty St. Louis here, Rick Nash; it cost us a lot of assets on the way,” said Gorton, who added that he fully expects Hayes to compete for a roster spot in September. “To be able to add players that our guys really like, that we consider first-round type picks — that’s huge for us to be able to restock the cupboards sort of speak.”
Gorton said it is a "pretty good bet" that Hayes would take part in the Traverse City prospect tournament next month.
While New York is certainly a change of scenery for Hayes, who has played his entire hockey career in Massachusetts, he’ll have a familiar face along for the ride in Chris Kreider.
During Hayes’ first season with B.C. in 2010-11, Hayes and Kreider were linemates along with Hayes’ brother, Jimmy, before Kevin went down with an injury. The following year, Hayes and Kreider played the entire season together, a season that included a 19-game winning streak and a National Championship.
“We were a power line that brought the puck to the net,” Hayes recalled of playing with Kreider. Hayes posted seven goals and 28 points in 44 games, while Kreider capped off his tenure with the Eagles with 23 goals and 45 points in 44 games.
Hayes said Kreider called him a few days ago to talk about the appeal of New York, and that it’ll be a positive having someone around he’s familiar with.
"I think when Kevin was looking at the teams and he looked at the Rangers, I think he looked at the younger players we've had and we've inserted right into the lineup and have had success," Gorton said. "I think Kreider is one of those guys."
Hayes also said he spoke with former Ranger and Boston College alum Brian Boyle, whom Hayes said spoke highly of playing for the Rangers and in New York.
The signing comes about a month before the start of training camp, a camp that is expected to be full of competition for several roster spots. Hayes said he’ll do whatever he can to find his name on the roster come October 9 in St. Louis.
“My goal is to be on the team come [October],” Hayes said. “I’m going to do everything I can for that to be accomplished. Ultimately it’s on myself and how I perform.”