I don’t know about you, but I for one was quite surprised when the New York Rangers were able to land highly touted prospect Kevin Hayes. This not because New York City and the Rangers aren’t a popular destination, because that would be a lie, but because there were many teams out there Hayes could have gone to where he would have been guaranteed a starting job on opening night. Not only a starting job but top 6 minutes as well. But obviously while Hayes cares about playing time, he obviously also wants to win and win now, which I can always admire.
So my question to you is, IF Hayes does make the starting roster out of training camp this season, where would he best fit in the Rangers’ starting lineup? Obviously since the Rangers are a win now team, if Hayes makes the team he will be somewhere in the bottom 6, but does he best fit on the Rangers’ 3rd or 4th line?
Hayes’ strength is said to be his two-way ability, meaning he is good on both sides of the puck, offense and defense. While the 4th line is mostly used for defensive purposes, Hayes’ defensive ability should fit in but his true skill, his offense and playmaking ability would suffer as a result, due to lack of minutes and role on the 4th line. That being said, the 4th line is still a good option for any rookie to start on in order to adjust to playing defense at the NHL level and to not overwhelm the kid with too much right away with his first taste in the NHL.
Now depending on how the Rangers see Hayes, whether it be a winger or center, he could end up on the 3rd line as a center, since that spot is currently up for grabs. Hayes’ playmaking ability seems more suited for center one would think, and playing along side veterans Carl Hagelin and Lee Stempniak should do him good, however that just may not be the case. In his best year in college, his senior year, Hayes played the wing and earlier in his college career when he did play center he was nowhere near as effective.
So in my opinion, Hayes should start out on the 4th line wing,
get his feet wet and adjust to the game at the NHL level, and then if he excels you could move him up the lines. All of this being said however, I am not the coach, and will not be any time soon, so no one will know anything until training camp concludes and head coach Alain Vigneault makes his final decisions. And if it so happens that Vigneault decides Hayes is not NHL ready by opening night, and as a result does not make the team right away, barring any injuries, Hayes should be able to impress fairly quickly in the AHL and be up with the Rangers shortly after the start of the regular season.
…man I wish it was October already.