|6’1”||177||5-14-04||RW||R||16th 2020||68 NA||USA|
|2019-20||HPHL U-15||Compuware U-15||14||13||11||24|
|2020-21||U-16 AAA||Honeybaked U-16||14||7||5||12|
Selected with the 16th overall selection at the 2020 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection and ranked 68th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting on their mod-term rankings is Flint Firebirds right winger Gavin Hayes.
Hayes began the season as someone who could climb up draft rankings because his game was trending in the right direction. He was getting some good looks on the Flint powerplay and some key responsibilities on the penalty kill. He was being projected as a solid 200-foot player who could put up some offence and his development as a 200-foot player was ahead of schedule.
The Firebirds got a couple of players back part way through the season, including one they probably weren’t expecting back in Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks) who was reassigned by the Abbotsford Canucks back in January. That reduced Hayes’ ice time and responsibilities yet, he has still managed to put up 19 goals and 26 helpers in 59 games to date.
Hayes is a good skater with decent top end speed who likes the north-south game. He uses his speed and size effectively as he can get in on the forecheck and is not shy about getting physical when on top of the oppositions defence. That’s great for a power forward in the making, but if the game moves east-west, he seems to get lost in that.
Hayes is also not shy about driving to the net and making himself the body to take away a goaltender’s vision. He is usually the first to go battle along the walls and despite needing to add some bulk and get stronger, wins his share of those battles.
Hayes has a good shot, but needs to find his consistency in getting into open lanes so his teammates can feed him a pass. He’s is good in transition and gaining the zone, but he’s not the driver in those situations but more the beneficiary of his teammate’s abilities. And that’s not a bad thing because a line can not be made up of 3 drivers.
Defensively, Hayes is ahead of the curve in understanding positioning – knows where to be and his responsibilities and uses his stick actively to disrupt plays and passing lanes. He could use some work on when to come back and help his defencemen a little more, but it’s been a work in progress and showing improvement.
It’s hard to say how NHL scouts will judge Hayes. Will it be on the early part of the season? Will it be more of what have you done lately for me? He’s actually been pretty good offensively since mid March. And then they’ll have to decide what he projects to be at the NHL level. Personally, I see him as a third liner at best who can give you a solid defensive performance while contributing some offence.
A lot will depend on his playoff performance.