Kevin Hayes Should Be Kept At Center For New York Rangers


Mar 10, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kevin Hayes (13) scores a goal against New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) in front of Islanders left wing Matt Martin (17) during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Off the heels of their first run to the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years, the New York Rangers stumbled out of the gates yet again due to a multitude of reasons. For starters, injuries were a big part of the early season disaster, as players like Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh missed extended time. Another reason for the early season struggles was a lack of depth. The Rangers were a team that had one-and-a-half lines. All of that has changed due to the emergence of one player; Kevin Hayes.

Hayes, who was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks but elected not to sign with them, as developed into a dynamic two-way center for the Rangers despite the fact that he was a natural winger in college. Like most of the Rangers, Hayes struggled early in the season, as he had a difficult time adapting to the 200-foot game a center has to play.

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  • However, since being put on a line with Carl Hagelin and J.T. Miller, Hayes has looked like a completely different player. He has been promoted to the second power-play unit, and has been moved up to a top-six role a couple of different times due to injuries. Even though Hayes has played well when asked to play the wing this season, he is of most use to the Rangers as the team’s third line center.

    When the Rangers have all their players healthy, they have three lines that can score. The third line, which usually consists of Hagelin, Miller and Hayes, makes a huge difference. If you recall last year, the Rangers third line was arguably their best, with Derrick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot generating an unbelievable amount of chances, as they were usually more talented than any other teams third line.

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    That is exactly what the Hagelin-Hayes-Miller trio has done for the Rangers this season. Hayes and Hagelin have played 525:23 minutes together this season. In those minutes, Hayes has a SAT% of 52.3%, while Hagelin has a SAT% of 53.6%. When Hagelin is apart from Hayes, his SAT% plummets to 48.8%. Hayes and Miller have played significantly less minutes together, as they clock in at 207:24 minutes. Miller’s SAT% with Hayes is 54.6% compared to 51.3%.

    Since that line was put together around December, Hayes has seen his scoring production skyrocket. Since December, Hayes has 25 points, compared to the paltry 13 he had in the first three months of the season. For a stretch of five games or so, Hayes’ line was clearly the best on the team.

    Hayes is a playmaker, and when he is on a line with Hagelin and Miller, they make things happen. Keeping Hayes at center gives the Rangers three lines that are all capable of scoring. This is why Hayes should be kept at center for the rest of the season and the playoffs.

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