After a stellar youth hockey career with the South Shore Kings and Noble and Greenough School, Kevin Hayes was 18 years old when he took his talents to Comm. Ave to play at Boston College under legendary head coach Jerry York.
Joining the Eagles as a first-round draft pick in 2010, he thought he would be the go-to guy at BC right out of the gate. At first, playing alongside two future NHL veterans, Chris Kreider and his older brother, Jimmy, that’s exactly what he was.
But it didn’t last long. About halfway through the season, Hayes tore his PCL, sidelining him for several weeks. When he returned, things were not the same.
He was relegated to the fourth line and began to see fewer and fewer minutes.
“Oh my god, this is brutal,” Hayes remembered, telling co-hosts Brian Yandle and Mike Mottau on the latest session of New England Hockey Journal’s The Rink Shrinks podcast. “I was having so much fun (playing in every situation) and now I’m playing like six minutes a night.
“And then all of a sudden I’m a first-round draft pick and I’m like, ‘Why am I not playing? This is insane.’ So, I’m like, ‘I want to get out of here.’ I remember my brother just signed, he was in Rockford (AHL), and I was telling my dad, I’m like, ‘I don’t even want to sign with the Blackhawks. I want to go play in Rockford with Jimmy and a couple buddies that I knew.’ He’s like, ‘Are you out of your mind? I am not letting you go play in Rockford.’”
Ultimately, he decided to stay, but things stayed more or less the same during year two. And while the Eagles won the national championship that year and Hayes put up effective numbers as an underclassman, it still just wasn’t going the way that he had anticipated when he first arrived on campus as a standout from Nobles in 2010.
As a junior, Hayes finally began to find offensive rhythm. Through 27 games, the Dorchester, Mass., native had amassed 25 points, and everything was looking up.
His play started to improve, and it looked like he may make an early jump to the NHL. But again, the injury bug came a-calling; this time, worse than before.
On Feb. 26, 2013, in the midst of a Hockey East showdown against UMass Lowell, Hayes’ dreams of matriculating ahead of schedule were dashed in an instant. In the second period, he absorbed a knee to the leg that put him in the hospital for weeks.
The hit, which resulted in compartment syndrome, popped all of the blood vessels in his left quadriceps and forced several surgeries. It was a dreary time for Hayes.
“That happened in February,” he said, “and I didn’t step on the ice until I think our first Boston College practice my senior year. Even Jerry York was like, ‘I honestly never thought that he would play ever again.’ Obviously, (he’d) let him be on the team because (I) was a senior, but he didn’t factor me into the plans I don’t think.”
Turns out it was a good thing he stayed.
As a senior on the top line with Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau, Hayes was a force to be reckoned with, nearly tripling his point production from junior year.
In 40 games, the one-two punch of Gaudreau and Hayes led the nation in scoring in 2013-14, amassing a combined 145 points on a whopping 63 goals, resulting in what many see as the most lethal tandem to ever grace the college hockey world.
“We absolutely lit it up,” Hayes said. “It was insane. It was the most fun that I’ve ever had playing hockey. We didn’t play together for the first 12 games and then we were losing to Holy Cross, I think, and (York) put us together. We ended up losing, but that point on for the rest of the season it was two, three points a night.”
With the confidence gained from his 65-point senior year, Hayes was ready to go.
After falling short of a second national championship with BC in the spring, he opted not to sign with the Blackhawks and, instead, became an NHL free agent.
It took a feeling-out process, but he ended up signing with the New York Rangers where he went on to enjoy a breakout rookie campaign. In Calgary, his former BC linemate, Gaudreau, did the same, quickly becoming an All-Star with the Flames.
After five years in New York, Hayes played 20 games with the Winnipeg Jets in 2018 before being sent to the Philadelphia Flyers at the trade deadline, where he has been ever since, donning an ‘A’ for two years in the City of Brotherly Love.
For more from Hayes on his time at BC and journey to the NHL, as well as many other interviews with The Rink Shrinks featuring co-hosts Brian Yandle and Mike Mottau, find the podcast through a variety of streaming platforms, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn, or online at hockeyjournal.com/podcast.
Russ deMariano of the Junior Terriers also joins the podcast to discuss Massachusetts youth hockey during COVID-19 and navigating the pandemic.