Is Kevin Hayes The Leagues Most Underrated Player?
BY DAVID MCLEOD SEPTEMBER 20, 2022 (0:08)
I'm sure the hoards of diehard Flyers fans have heard the disparaging news surrounding Sean Couturier's recent injury report, but luckily the Flyers possess one of the league's best kept secrets down the middle.
In order for the Flyers to get off to an early start and remain in the mix, in the highly competitive Metro division, the Orange and Black will need to lean heavily on their underrated. multitool weapon this year. Of course, I am speaking of the towering, 6'5», 215lbs beast, Kevin Hayes.
It is no secret Big Hayes-y has faced a myriad of nagging injuries during the past three seasons, but when healthy, he is one of the best big men in the game. By all accounts, Hayes is heading into the 2022-2023 season 100% healthy and poised to lead the Flyers offense, which could be a nightmare for NHL defenders.
Hayes is very unique talent and a throwback to the big body NHLers, who dominated the game for decades. Hayes uses his massive frame and long reach, in Jagr-esque fashion, to toy with defenders and hold them off with his dominant strength on the puck.
Hayes' foot speed has often been called in to question by casual fans, but it can easily be argued Hayes intentionally slows the pace of the game in order to let plays develop and draw multiple defenders towards him and in doing so, Hayes frees up ice and passing lanes for his line mates.
With his elite vision and incredibly silky mitts, Hayes uses his high hockey IQ to manipulate defenders and force them to overplay the puck, by utilizing his abnormal patience and unconventional timing. What I mean by that, more simply, is Hayes' timing compared to most players in the league, is intentionally off.
When a defender expects a pass, Hayes holds the puck for a split second longer. When a defender presses him, he hesitates and make them over commit. When a goalie expects a pass, Hayes will rifle a quick shot on net. When you watch an NHL game, there is a natural flow, timing, and relative predictability to it, which is something Kevin Hayes manipulates to his advantage, as he does not make the obvious and predictably timed plays. The unpredictability of Hayes' offensive game is what makes him difficult to cover and such an effective point producer in the league, especially when he isn't batting injury.
Hayes is not just an elite setup man and a player who dominates the pace of a shift, he also has an underrated release and an absolute canon of a one timer. Hayes has, what can be best describe as, a heavy shot, which is difficult for tenders to handle. Mix his heavy, deceptive shot in with an uncanny ability to embarrass and undress NHL defenders, with his mesmerizing stick handling and dangles, and it is easy to see why he causes fits for goalies and defenders.
We've all witnessed the one timer on the powerplay too, which is underutilized in my opinion, as the Flyers powerplay has struggled with urgency and execution throughout the past three coach's tenures. For the Flyers to be successful this season, it is no secret their special teams have to improve and they will rely heavily on Kevin Hayes.
Hayes can play any position on the power play; working effectively off the wall, at the top of the umbrella, or as the trigger man for one-timers, which the Flyers need to exploit more.
Hayes' value is not just limited to his offensive wizardry though, as he is a complete 200ft player, that plays in all situations. Kevin Hayes is effectively utilized on the penalty kill, which will only get better under the aggressive style of Tortorella.
Defensively, Hayes has an uncanny ability to read the game and correctly anticipate and interrupt passes. Hayes had a multitude of defense takeaways last season, that resulted in breakaways and odd man rushes on the kill specifically, but also at even strength.
Hayes will flourish under an aggressive coaching style, where he can use his frame and reach to force players in the defensive zone.
Along with a complete 200ft game, Hayes is also one of the vocal leaders of the Flyers, and someone who leads by example. Hayes says and does all of the right things as one of the captains of the Flyers and appears to always be encouraging and a leader who has a positive impact on his teammates.
It isn't a shock to Flyers fans to suggest Kevin Hayes is one of the league's most electric personalities either, as he obviously brings a tremendous amount of energy, character, humor, and flare to the game.
Kevin Hayes is one of the NHL's most underrated centers and it will be exciting to see how his game will flourish under John Tortorella and a new, aggressive style of play. If Kevin Hayes can avoid injury and stays healthy look out!