Tons of hype and mostly disappointing results.
On the surface, it would seem like Boston product Jimmy Hayes and the Toronto Maple Leafs were a match made in heaven.
All kidding aside, Hayes was drafted by Toronto in the 2nd round, 60th overall this past June. Once touted as a possible Top 10 pick in one of the deepest draft classes of the decade, Jimmy had an absolutely dismal '07-'08 campaign. Come draft day, he was ranked as low as 63rd among N.A skaters, but it was generally believed that someone would take a chance on him earlier than that.
He started the year playing for the U-18 U.S. National Team Development Program (USNDP), where he scored just 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points in 23 games played. He then left the programme to join the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, where he managed to salvage some of his season by posting 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points in 21 games played. Jimmy then pushed his game to another level during the postseason, finishing with 4 goals and 5 assists for 9 points in 8 playoff games. That late season surge along with some very impressive numbers at the NHL Draft combine convinced the Leafs scouting staff to take a chance on him with their 60th overall selection.
Jimmy Hayes is the epitome of of a boom or bust prospect. He possesses the rare combination of great size (6'5 210 lbs), strong skating ability, and soft hands. He doesn't back down from physical play, but sometimes looks uncomfortable playing the body. Coaches who have worked with Jimmy have also been very impressed with his willingness to play a team-first game, work ethic and overall very smart and mature personality.
Team USA assistant coach and former Olympic head coach Tim Taylor had this to say about Hayes:
"Jimmy has an unbelievable attitude, he is fierce competitor, he wants to score, he wants to be good. He is like a sponge and as a coach, he takes in everything you say and is a quick learner."
The knock against Hayes is that despite his tremendous physical build and talent, he lacks consistency and hasn't been able to translate it onto the scoresheet. Followers of the Lincoln Stars were treated to a sample of what Jimmy can do when it he puts it all together. During that stretch, he was absolutely dominant, constantly driving to the net, creating scoring chances and simply abusing defenders with his strength and reach. One possible reason for his low point production during the regular season may be attributed to the fact that Lincoln prefers playing a finesse perimeter game on the PP, which took away from Jimmy's greatest strength: parking himself like a rock in front of the net and scoring on tips or garbage type rebounds.
This season he will make the jump to the NCAA and play for the Boston College Eagles, where we hope that he will build on his strong finish to last year's campaign. Jimmy is a big-time project of a prospect, but one with mouth-watering potential. How much? Well, during The Hockey News' Future Watch 2007 article, previewing the '08 draft, they stated that Hayes was more advanced than Philly bluechipper, '07 2nd overall pick, James Van Riemsdyk was at the same age. Hockeysfuture puts it quite simply: "If it ever clicks for Hayes, he could be scary good."
So let's keep our fingers crossed but our expectations tempered as we follow Jimmy's freshman year in the NCAA.
Always a pleasure,
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