The Colorado Avalanche have had a hard time in recent years hitting on draft picks that weren’t lottery picks with only 2009 second-round pick Ryan O’Reilly being the exception to that rule. Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon are all great players and will be backbones of the Avs’ future, but they were drafted in the top three of the 2009, 2011 and 2013 drafts respectively. The team’s inability to find solid contributors outside the top-three has been an Achilles heel in their quest to build a contender. Landing collegiate free agent Kevin Hayes could have offset some of those drafting woes.
The Avalanche (along with the Nashville Predators and Hayes’ hometown Boston Bruins) were in the bidding for Hayes’ services until the New York Rangers inked the former Boston College Eagle to a two-year entry level deal. While Hayes is still a relatively raw project, he would no doubt be a great get for the Avalanche as his skill set would fit like a glove with the team’s already impressive young talent.
Signing Hayes wouldn’t have cost the Avalanche any compensation, and his craftiness and skills would have helped offset the loss of free agent center Paul Stastny. Would Hayes be able to replace Stastny’s All-Star level productivity? No. But having a young and talented forward like Hayes surely wouldn’t hurt.
At the end of the day, Hayes chose the Rangers for his own reasons and there’s nothing the Avs could have done about that. Whether it was remaining in the Northeast, playing on Broadway or reuniting with former Boston College teammate Chris Kreider, something drew Hayes to New York City over Denver. Having said that, this loss surely stings as the former Nobles Prep star would have helped offset some of the problems the Avalanche have had drafting in recent years.