Prospect Watch is back once again with another name that you, the fan, should have on your radar. This week that name is non-other than the latest member of Peterborough Petes, forward Avery Hayes. Who was acquired in a recent trade from the reigning Ontario Hockey League (OHL) champions, the Hamilton Bulldogs. A very successful franchise in which Hayes played a big part in over the past few seasons.
So much so that it has left, this writer perplexed as to why no NHL team to date has thought to sign this now 20-year-old undrafted free agent. Far too often, professional clubs focus solely on building their team from the draft, which to their credit, does play a massive part in the development of their future, but it is not the only way to stay competitive. For example, the true contenders who are forced to select at the tail end of the draft year in and year out have found ways like signing late bloomers such as Hayes (and players like him) to entry-level deals to compensate for their lack of draft capital.
While this type of thinking may be considered innovative, when you think about it, it is nothing more than common sense. I mean, why would any prospecting club not want to add a player who is a threat to score each and every time he touches the ice? Who cares that Hayes is 20 years old when he possesses such a quick and accurate one-timer that it has allowed him to pile up goals on the power play? Not to mention the fact that he has been blessed with the patience of a seasoned NHL veteran that has allowed him to buckle the knees of goaltenders in the OHL for the last few seasons when on a breakaway. With that being said, it is this writer’s opinion that Avery would instantly become a top prospect for whatever club is smart enough to offer him a contract after this season. Don’t believe me? Just look at these stats. Last season, while playing for the Bulldogs, Avery scored 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points over the course of 66 games played during the regular season. Folks, that means he was able to score at a 1.19-point-per-game pace. What may be equally impressive to NHL clubs, though, is that as dominant as Hayes was able to be in the offensive zone last season, he was able to match that defensively with him being able to maintain a +43 average. A feat that he sought out to best come playoff time when he scored 14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points in just 16 games played, which, again, if you do the math, averages out to an astounding 2.12 points per game. This kind of production led to Hamilton winning the aforementioned Ontario Hockey League Championship. But because of the NHL franchises’ inattentiveness to anyone not in their first year of draft eligibility, Hayes’ historic run last season was all for naught.
That’s why once again, this Michigan native was forced to set out this season with the intent to open the eyes of any scouts that may be attending their games. Which, so far, I think he has done. In 33 games played for the Bulldogs this season (before being traded), Avery maintained a 1.24-point-per-game pace scoring 27 goals and 14 assists for 41 points. In addition, since being traded to the Peterborough Petes just a short time ago, Hayes has been able to instantaneously step into an unfamiliar offense and produce, scoring two goals in his first game with his new club. To put into perspective just what type of year Avery is currently on pace for, here are his projected end-of-the-season totals: 55 goals, 27 assists for 82 points.
I don’t know about you, but if Hayes can finish the year with these stats, he at least deserves a camp invite from somebody for his troubles, if not a 2-way contract.