College Hockey:
The perfect complement: Boston College’s Hayes much more than a Gaudreau appendage

Kevin Hayes has 63 points in his senior season at Boston College (photo: Melissa Wade).

It’s a fait accompli that Johnny Gaudreau will win the Hobey Baker Award next week.

And deservedly so. He’s run away with the national scoring title, totaling 77 points while also topping the country in goals scored and assists.

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Earlier this season, he tied Paul Kariya’s Hockey East record for consecutive games with at least one point (31).

At last week’s Northeast Regional, he recorded a hat trick and added three assists in an opening round shellacking of Denver, tying the second-most points ever scored in an NCAA tournament game. One night later, he assisted on two goals to help defeat Massachusetts-Lowell and send Boston College to yet another Frozen Four appearance.

The Hobey Baker Award has been signed, sealed, and a week from now will be delivered to Gaudreau.

But there’s another BC forward who’s also a finalist and deserves a share of that limelight. Kevin Hayes plays the wing opposite Gaudreau on a line centered by Bill Arnold, one that has become the most feared unit in college hockey.

Since being put together on Dec. 6, the trio has combined for 45 goals, 64 assists and a plus-65 plus/minus rating. And that was before the Northeast Regional, where it terrorized first Denver and then Lowell for another eight goals, 12 assists and a plus-21.

Make no mistake, Hayes is no mere Gaudreau appendage. He ranks second only to Gaudreau in scoring (63 points) and fifth in goals (27). In the regional, he scored three goals along with four assists.

At 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds, he provides the perfect size complement to the diminutive Gaudreau and his jaw-dropping moves. More importantly, Hayes possesses a level of skill not seen in a collegiate player of his size in a long time.

Time after time, he looks like a man among boys as he uses his superior wingspan to shield defenders from the puck, then finishes the play himself by either burying his shot or feeding a teammate.

Exhibit A came on BC’s second goal against Denver, one in which Hayes emerged from the corner with the puck, as is his wont. He then carried it out to the left point, eluded two defenders, skated down to the slot, deked and beat the goaltender for his 25th goal of the season.

It was a move that would have been befitting the 5-8, 159-pound Gaudreau, but from a player of Hayes’ size, it was a stunning performance. And for those who’ve watched him all year, not at all atypical.

“Kevin is a great player,” Gaudreau says. “He’s a big guy and protects the puck like no one I’ve ever seen. It’s fun to play with him. He’s so skilled offensively.

“He makes [great] passes. This weekend, he made a behind-the-back, no-look pass to give me a clear break. He’s so gifted in the offensive zone. He sees the ice really, really well.”

Kevin Hayes had 17 goals in his first three seasons combined before breaking out for 27 goals so far as a senior (photo: Melissa Wade).

And yet, to hear the humble-to-a-fault Hayes, it’s all just a succession of lucky bounces and great linemates.

“Luck was definitely involved,” he said after his line scored three goals in the first 10 minutes and six goals overall to eliminate Denver. “Pucks were definitely bouncing our way. Just playing with [Arnold and Gaudreau], the game is pretty simple.

“Billy Arnold, everyone knows and everyone says, the way he plays defense is incredible. He’s always back, he’s always in the right spot. Playing with Johnny, just give Johnny the puck and something nice is going to happen.”

While the point about great linemates can be conceded, Hayes’ dismissal of his performances as the result of good bounces — a frequent response in postgame news conferences this year — fails all tests. Probability tests. Logic tests. Eye tests.

Hayes didn’t cast a magic spell that allowed him to stickhandle through half of the Denver defensive zone. That was skill, not luck — a skill he’s demonstrated all year long. Surprisingly because of the size disparity, it’s also a skill shared by Gaudreau.

“Johnny protects pucks very similar to what Kevin does,” BC coach Jerry York says. “They shield the pucks, they’re smart with puck placement and they make it very difficult for a defensive team to get pucks away from them. They work really well together on that line.”

With a player of Hayes’ size, it’s tempting to look ahead to his pro potential. York compares him to Brian Boyle, the 6-7 forward for the New York Rangers. Boyle, like Hayes a former BC player and first-round draft pick, has scored 52 goals in the NHL.

“I see a lot of Brian Boyle in him in the way he plays, and that’s always a good sign,” York says.

“He’s going to have a long NHL career,” Gaudreau adds.

But Hayes’ pro career will happen soon enough. For now, he’s got one or two more collegiate games left to play. It says here we should all appreciate this special talent while he’s still part of our game.

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  • smack_libs_around

    “It’s a fait accompli that Johnny Gaudreau will win the Hobey Baker Award next week.” Don’t tell ‘esteemed’ college hockey analyst Dave Starman that. He thinks that players who have to take LONG bus rides and even…gasp!!…planes during the season ought to be given more weight than sloths like Johnny, who ‘merely’ have to take a short trolley ride to every game. Yep. That’s his thinking, and he’s sticking to it. LOL.

    • Eagle Eye

      smack libs…can I have some of them, there drugs you been takin’ !!! look in the mirror, and repeat after me…”I’m a complete idiot”.

      • reardensteel

        Not sure you’re reading his post correctly. He’s saying Gaudreau should win, in contrast to what Starman was implying.
        You’re being pretty harsh to him for saying something that I think you would agree with.

    • Ryan Mitchell

      I would agree that travel is over-rated and not really as big a factor as starman made it sound – it does have some effect as a short trip would always be better than a long trip – not sure how much you travel but long trips suck – I think the arguement that should be made is the advantage that hockey east has in the ability to not have to play back to back games without days off inbetween – Just a quick look BC played 9 times where they had to play without an off day inbetween where western team had to do that between 16-18 times. The day off inbetween is a huge advantage. All that said Johnny hockey is the most obvious Hobey winner since Kariya in 1993.

      • Daniel

        Good points, I as well agree that travel is over rated, however I don’t think there is much of any difference in travel between the western schools and the eastern schools. Now geographic differences were a biproduct of BCS expansion as we all know, but I just used BC and Minnesota as examples, just pulling their schedules (reg season only) Minnesota averages 4.31 days between games while BC averages 4.49 days between games. I agree that when you do it as often as you referenced for western schools it is taxing. I think the original poster was talking about Starman, who is a notoriously biased (there are just as many eastern as western) reporter was making a planket statement without any actual data to support it.

  • Daniel

    It’s great to see Kevin come around this year, as many of we fans were waiting for this moment. He had struggled with injuries and learning curves in his first three years, but his talent is undeniable. I agree with York (who obviously knows his, and pretty much every other college hockey player, better than I) that he reminds me of Boyle but also a little bit of Kreider as well. Possibly a good mix of the two of them. Go Eagles!!

    • hockeyman41

      York deserves a ton of credit for recruiting then putting these three guys on the same line.

      • ChuckGandCrew

        This kid is a defensive liability. The whole line doesn’t play D. I think Minn would expose this, if Union doesn’t. I doubt “Johnny Dangles” will be coming through the nuetral zone as cleanly as he does against HE teams too scared to sneeze on him.

        • Daniel

          Clearly you haven’t watched BC or that line at all. If you think that Gaudreau just skates in and scores, well I don’t know what to tell you. No player in college hockey is double teamed, battered, held, tripped and mugged everytime he gets in the offensive zone as much as he has. I’d also like to see your evidence of Hayes being a defensive liability..

        • EaglesFan

          Bill Arnold is considered to be one of, if not the best two-way forward in the Hockey East…you just don’t know what you’re talking about

          • EaglesFan

            Not to mention they make up the best PK unit in the nation.

          • ChuckGandCrew

            Without a doubt Arnold my be the most under-rated player on that team. That line is the best line in college hockey. But if they can be beat, it’ll be by disrupting them in the neutral zone and forcing them to spend time in their own end. ND did this very well.

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