(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment in Chicago Hockey Now’s Blackhawks of Tomorrow series about Chicago Blackhawks prospects. Today we look at defenseman Gavin Hayes).
A third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Hayes responded with a dynamite season for the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League in 2022-23. Not a bad way to make a first impression as a member of the Blackhawks organization.
Hayes was listed as the 51st best skater in North America by Central Scouting prior to the 2022 NHL Draft. The Blackhawks saw a speedy forward who though pass-first, was still piling up goals near the end of his season. Nearly a point-per-game in the OHL playoffs in 2022, Hayes buried 41 goals in the 2022-23 regular season, doubling his previous total and outpacing his assists. His 81 points put the OHL on notice that maybe it wasn’t a pass-first philosophy anymore. Like Kevin Korchinski, though the Blackhawks took him earlier than some had on their projections, it’s looking pretty smart now.
Hayes was tied for ninth in goals across the entire league. Only teammate Amadeus Lombardi, a prospect with Detroit, scored more goals. Hayes came in with fanfare as the Firebirds took him 16th overall in the OHL Priority Draft back in 2020. They, too, saw something in the winger, and his 1.27 point-per-game pace in 2022-23 justifies it. Topping out at 6’2, his frame, soft hands, and quick release could do wonders for a Blackhawks team developing and building. Hayes also goes to the net, so not only will he tally the pretty goals, but fight for the greasy ones, too.
With the professional tryout he signed with Rockford back in April, it’s evident Hayes is not only on the radar, but approaching the time to be closer to the big club. The prospect pool is filling with offensive threats everywhere. With his entry-level deal kicking in next season, Hayes is certainly one prospect to keep a close eye on.