New York Rangers: It’s time to appreciate Kevin Hayes

Kevin Hayes has developed into a multi-role player for the New York Rangers. For a man who has seen much criticism over his career, its time to start showing him the appreciation he deserves.

Kevin Hayes, New York Rangers: elite two way forward?

At first glance, one might ask, “are you crazy?” But, over the past two years, Kevin Hayes has been an unsung hero on the Rangers team. With a game that has rounded out splendidly, and a high end skill set at both ends of the ice, Hayes needs to be shown some love.

However, Hayes has been on the receiving end of some criticism. Consistency comes into play. Perceived effort level gets brought up in regards to him. His off ice personality has been criticized. However, Hayes does more for the team than one might realize.

It’s time to debunk the critics.

The Problem With “Effort”

So, let’s set things straight: judging a player’s “perceived effort level” is bogus. However, it is one of the biggest pieces of criticism directed at Hayes. That he takes shifts off, or he isn’t competing as hard or as consistently as his peers, is an issue and a reason why he will never be a top NHL center.

The issue with this is how effort is visually perceived. Let’s use Hayes as an example. Kevin Hayes is 6’5″ and 220 lbs. He is dramatically larger than most of the players he plays with or against. Many of the players with a high “perceived effort level” are 5’10-6′, like, say, Ryan Callahan for example.

Now, a larger player requires far less strides to get up ice and make defensive plays. Watching on TV or at a game, however, it will appear that Hayes is “not trying that hard” and Callahan is. Callahan will rev up the motors to get up ice, and Hayes just kind of effortlessly glides to get the same distance.

Nothing about this tells you how hard a player is trying to make a play. All it tells you is that Hayes takes longer strides than a smaller player and his skating doesn’t “appear” as good as that of a smaller player.

Moving on…

Hayes’ Defensive Impact

Kevin Hayes has developed into a spectacular defensive forward. He now regularly plays on the penalty kill and consistently leads shorthanded rushes up ice. Having an offensive catalyst on the penalty kill that also has high end defensive acumen is so valuable to a contending team.

At the time of writing this, Kevin Hayes is seventh in the NHL in takeaways (all situations) and ninth in 5v5 takeaways. He is ahead of notable players such as Connor McDavid, Patrice Bergeron, Auston Matthews, and the Rangers own Rick Nash.

His takeaway numbers are also nearly twice as many as his giveaways. He is stripping players of the puck more often than he is giving it away. Consider that the NHL credits takeaways to the player that physically removes the puck from a defender. Hayes is a puck hound in the defensive end.

How does he do this so well? Hayes is constantly criticized for not using his size effectively. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hayes isn’t a big hitter, which is what critics look to his big body for. Hayes smartly uses his size and long stick to create the turnovers that lead to his high takeaway numbers.

With Hayes being so young, and his game still developing, he has the potential to be an elite defensive player. But, how do his offensive numbers hold up in comparison?

Hayes’ Offensive Impact

It’s true, Hayes’ offensive numbers are down this year. He has terrific hands, a great shot, and elite playmaking vision that we’ve seen in flashes throughout his career. So, where is the production to match?

As his PK time goes up, his PP time has gone down. This, in turn, has led to a reduced offensive impact. However, just last year, Hayes scored 49 points. This year, he is pacing 37 points, but with a hot streak, could see his pace go back into the 40s.

Sure, he could stand to produce more offense. Sure, his skill set should probably get him more points. You can say that about a lot of players in this league. When he played on the powerplay last year, he nearly scored 50 points. Using Hayes in that 2nd PP center position early on instead of Desharnais easily could have changed this perception of him.

So, finding him a spot on the powerplay would do him a lot of good this season. Through his career, he has been a consistent 40-50 point scoring center, landing him firmly in solid 2nd line center territory. Consider this, now:Hayes is a good top six forward offensively with matured, developed, elite defensive skills.

It’s time to show Kevin Hayes some love. This is a budding elite two way player.