Gaudreau and Hayes: A Tale of Two Eagles
By Anthony Iati
Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin Hayes were nothing short of superstars during their days as Boston College Eagles. When each left BC for the National Hockey League after the 2013-14 season, a massive amount of scoring production departed Coach Jerry York‘s program with them. Both Gaudreau and Hayes enjoyed breakout rookie campaigns as pros in 2014-15. “Johnny Hockey”, representing his Calgary Flames, finished third in the Calder Trophy voting given to the league’s top rookie behind Florida’s Aaron Ekblad and Ottawa’s Mark Stone. Over on the East Coast, Hayes was a key playoff performer during the New York Rangers postseason run. But as the calendar turns to 2016 this week, the former college teammates are having vastly different sophomore seasons, and are trending in opposite directions.
Gaudreau, ever the diminutive demon at 5’9″, has built upon his strong rookie season in 2015-16. Through 35 games, he has tallied 17 goals (7th in the NHL), 22 assists (10th), and 39 points (6th). He is second in the league with five game-winning goals, in addition to recording two hat tricks. Already at age 22, Gaudreau is dispelling notions that he is too small and fragile to play at a high level in the NHL. Week after week, he continues to flash highlight reel goals, including five tallies in Calgary’s last two games against Winnipeg and Edmonton, respectively. The 2011 fourth round draft pick is more than compensating for the three years the Flames had to wait while Gaudreau was torching Hockey East foes on The Heights. As his star shines brighter and brighter, it is frightening for NHL opponents to realize that there is still time for Johnny Hockey to add bulk and physicality to his game, and potentially become even more prolific.
However, sophomore success has not come as easily to Rangers forward Kevin Hayes. A powerful 6’5″, 227 lb. right winger, Hayes has been skewered by the New York media for his lack of production (6 goals, 11 assists) this season. He is slated to be a healthy scratch for Alain Vigneault‘s club on December 30 when the Rangers visit the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning, as the veteran coach attempts to send the young forward a message. Vigneault even went as far as to suggest that Hayes has not worked hard enough this season. As a rookie, though, Hayes emerged towards the end of the season and contributed 7 points in 19 postseason contests, including a game-winning goal. At times playing with fellow former Eagle Chris Kreider, the Dorchester, Ma., native endeared himself to the Blueshirt faithful. Now, fans are heavily criticizing his lack of production– just two points in 12 games in December. His ice time has dwindled down to 12:18 in the December 28 loss in Nashville and he is a -1 in the +/- category for the season. Hayes is finding the back of the net on just 8.7% of his shots, compared to Gaudreau’s 17.7%.
There is a drastic difference in production between Gaudreau and Hayes this season, and it is being reflected in both ice time and national recognition. While the former appears headed back to the All-Star Game, the latter will spend the Rangers’ final game of the calendar year on the bench. With only a season and a half under each of their belts, there is tons of time for things to turn around- but such a change is only desirable for Hayes.