The New York Rangers are 2-3-5 in their last 10 games and are one regulation loss away from being a .500 hockey club. It’s been a rough December for the Rangers, but not for center Kevin Hayes. He’s been playing some of the best hockey of his life.
Hayes has piled up 15 points in his last eight games. He extended that streak against the Columbus Blue Jackets last night with his sixth multi-point game of this stretch.
Those 15 points include three goals and four primary assists at 5v5. That means that Hayes has primary points on seven of the Rangers’ last 26 goals scored at 5v5. In that same span, no other Rangers skater has had more than four primary points when both teams have had five skaters on the ice.
As if the counting stats weren’t enough, he and Chris Kreider are the only two Rangers who are in the green in the shot share through the last eight games. That shot share is a plus-13.43 relative to his teammates through the last eight games, which is second only to Chris Kreider’s 13.46 Rel CF%. He’s also broken even on giveaways and takeaways and has a +6 5v5 goal differential.
This very well could be the most impressive stretch of games we’ve seen from Hayes in his NHL career, which is really saying something. Thanks to this recent point streak, he has already eclipsed the number of primary assists he had at 5v5 in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. In fact, Hayes is now well on his way to setting a new career high for 5v5 points in a single season — his previous best was his 36-point rookie campaign. He’s also on pace to set a career high past his 49 points in 76 in 2016-17 in all situations.
1-1. Vesey tap-in of Kevin Hayes feed. Hayes' point streak now at 8 games. Career-high.— Colin Stephenson (@ColinASteph) December 28, 2018
Regardless of where you stand on the debate of whether the Rangers should re-sign Hayes or deal him at the deadline, his play of late has been nothing short of impressive. It’s even more relevant because this is, as we all know, a contract year for the 26 year-old. It’s far too early say, but his play in the last eight games could have a direct impact on his future and his next contract.
Hayes is now just four points shy of his disappointing total he put up in his sophomore year, which is almost fitting because he looks nothing like the player that went from having 21 primary assists at 5v5 as a rookie to 10 primary assists at 5v5 as a sophomore. With each game he plays this season, Hayes is building onto his reputation and erasing any lingering doubts about his value. He’s an impact player.
In the last month or so Hayes has taken major strides towards earning what will surely be the contract that will define his professional career. Whichever team ends up with him after the smoke clears at the deadline will have a special player on their roster.
Data courtesy naturalstattrick.com and corsica.hockey.