Remember Jimmy Hayes?Â He was the Leafs 2nd round pick in 2008, a burgeoning power forward who struggled last season in his freshman campaign with the Boston College Eagles as he adjusted to the NCAA game.
Consider those struggles a thing of the past.
Hayes was fantastic in the Hockey East Championship this past week as his team captured their ninth tournament victory, an NCAA record.Â Oh, and you may be interested to know that his 2 goals and 5 assists (in 4 games) led all tournament point-getters.
This past season, which was Hayes’ sophomore campaign, found the young winger playing with renewed confidence as he showed an increased comfort level with the NCAA game.Â With the resultant increased ice time, Hayes was able to score 8 goals and 15 assists for 23 points in 34 games prior to the tournament.Â Â The NCAA records stats cumulatively, which brings his totals (following the tournament) to 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 38 games — good for 24th overall in the cumulative Hockey East scoring race.
With college players, patience is required as the progression to the pro ranks is not nearly as quick as with the CHL (it’s the reason Leafs’ prospect Kenny Ryan chose to leave Boston College for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires; decades ago, Jeremy Roenick made a similar decision). With NCAA games played primarily on the weekends, and school studies a focus to maintain scholarships, hockey development via the college route often occurs at a slower pace.Â That said, as players such as Tyler Bozak have shown, the slower pace does not at all stunt a player’s development; indeed, there are many who espouse the NCAA’s athletic development programs as — in terms of the end result — every bit the CHL’s equal.
In the meantime, Leafs fans can enjoy the fact that another young prospect in the system is developing into a noteworthy player in his current league.Â With two years left in his college program, Hayes has the time necessary to continue his development at a comfortable pace, while at the same time earning a degree that will serve him later in life (one of the distinct advantages of choosing to go the college route).
This weekend, the NCAA’s National Ice Hockey Tournament begins, with the Boston College Eagles receiving an automatic seed following their conference championship.Â Hayes will be looking to continue his post-season success against the CCHA’s Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks on Saturday afternoon, and — hopefully for Leafs fans — throughout the rest of the tournament.
NCAA National Men’s Hockey Tournament Bracket, March 26 – 28
Miami-Ohio (CCHA) v. Alabama-Huntsville (CHA)
Bemidji State (CHA) v. Michigan (CCHA)
North Dakota (WCHA) v. Yale (ECAC)
Alaska-Fairbanks (CCHA) v. Boston College (Hockey East)
Wisconsin (WCHA) v. Vermont (Hockey East)
St.Cloud State (WCHA) v. Northern Michigan (CCHA)
Cornell (ECAC) v. New Hampshire (Hockey East)
Rochester (AHA) v. Denver (WCHA)
NCAA Frozen Four Tournament, April 8 – 10
The four teams to emerge from the NCAA Tournament bracket above will participate in the “Frozen Four” tournament, to be held in Detroit.
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,