Kevin Hayes played his breakout season for the New York Rangers this year. He had a career-high 17 goals and 32 assists for 49 points.
These numbers not only show growth in the play of the 24-year-old, who centered his line with J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner this season, but also show that he can play consistent hockey on a day-to-day basis.
Hayes had previously struggled in his relationship with Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault, but this season it seemed that they had overcome this. Because Hayes improved every aspect of his game — his skating, stick handling, passing and shooting — Vigneault put him out in important moments.
However, his biggest downfall came in the playoffs. Hayes was nearly invisible and all-around looked like a different player. He did not move his feet as much in transition or into the offensive zone, players had a tendency to knock the puck off his stick, his passes were not as purposeful as those he played through the regular season, and overall this affected his offensive production right when the Rangers needed him most.
Despite this, this season was important for Hayes because he proved that he should be seen as a valuable asset to the Rangers this season, and assuming this play continues into next season, that perhaps he is worth a longer-term contract.