Why New York Rangers’ Kevin Hayes is a Better Version of Brian Boyle


Kevin Hayes is quickly becoming a remarkable defensive forward for the New York Rangers. Where the rookie was once hesitant early on in the season, he is now focused on the 5-on-5 and penalty kill. He’s fifth amongst Rangers in takeaways with 40 (more than any defenseman) and has logged 14 goals and 24 assists and is at an excellent +16 up to this point. With this much growth, the 22-year-old is really becoming a great piece to the puzzle where another defensive forward and former Ranger, Brian Boyle, was missing.

Not to discredit the talent of Boyle, but Hayes may even prove to be a better fit in New York than Boyle ever was.

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When Boyle, weighing in at 244 pounds at 6’7″, signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers were left with a blatant deficit in size and grit. You could tell just by watching the Rangers in the Fall. It was almost too apparent how small the team was.

That’s until Hayes, 225 pounds (226 before the haircut) at 6’5″ and one of the largest players on the team, started to really show up on the ice and make himself noticeable. With Hayes making plays and often preventing opponents from doing such, his size has become that much more apparent. And he’s still young enough to sing along to Taylor Swift (“22” anybody?). So who knows, Hayes could turn out to really size up to Boyler especially after postseason training.

The physical aspect of the game itself, however, is not as developed for Hayes as it was for Boyle and naturally so. Being the second highest among Rangers with 154 last season, Boyle was a real tough guy. Then there’s Hayes who now has 56 hits, 13th highest on the team. Not even close to Boyle. But that’s probably because Hayes wouldn’t want to be stepping on too many toes in his first NHL season anyway. When he does get to know the field a little better, I have a feeling smaller skaters will want to look over their shoulder when Hayes is out on the ice.

On the other side of that coin, Hayes generally made a point in keeping the team off the penalty kill. He’s kept out of trouble most games, earning 22 penalty minutes, while Boyle made a home in the sin bin last year with 56 PIM. By refraining from laying out every other skater, Hayes has avoided taking possible penalties and has thus avoided putting the team at a disadvantage.

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In the points department, Hayes blows Boyler out of the water. As mentioned before, Hayes has 38 points in the books right now. In his last season in New York, Boyle collected a measly 6 goals and 12 assists and was a +1. Having a defensive forward with offensive talent like Hayes lends heavily to the reasoning why he is a better fit in New York than Boyle was.

But now’s the real test: Playoffs. Boyle recorded three goals and five assists in last year’s playoffs and was the best Ranger in the face-off during the Finals. Hayes needs to produce in the playoffs just as every teammate needs to. Everyone is being counted on, Hayes included, and if he really is a good replacement for Boyle he will have to come up with some points in the playoffs too. The face-off is still something Hayes needs to work on. Despite a tremendous improvement, it’s still at a lowly 37.4% and has been inconsistent (it was 28.6% in his last game). Boyle held an impressive 52.9 FO% in the regular season, but that’s only one place where Hayes critically falls short of Boyle and the rookie deserves time to improve there.

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