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Rangers' Kevin Hayes makes his NHL debut

Kevin Hayes #13 of the Rangers skates against

Kevin Hayes #13 of the Rangers skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

As the Rangers' 1-2 start to this season demonstrates, just months after their run to the Stanley Cup Final, there is no standing still in hockey. The need to keep moving, to oil the machinery with new parts, never ends.

And that is one reason that 22-year-old former Boston College star Kevin Hayes was afforded his NHL debut last night.

"I believe, every year, for a team to have success, you need some good young players," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We brought in some very good young players last year . . . You expect some of those young kids to come into your lineup and contribute."

So Hayes got to dip his toe into the Big Time's swift current last night, when developments unfolded a bit too quickly for all of the Rangers in a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hayes took his first shift 2 minutes, 8 seconds into the game, starting with a faceoff. (He lost that, eventually winning two of 12 faceoffs.)

The right wing played mostly on a line with Carl Hagelin and J.T. Miller, finishing with 14:17 of ice time in 19 shifts and a plus/minus of negative 2.

His one shot on goal came with 6:23 to play in the first period with the Rangers down 1-0. Hayes, flying to the net to take a cross-ice pass, couldn't quite stuff the puck past Toronto goalie James Reimer.

"One good opportunity," Hayes said. "If I score that goal in the first, it could be a different outcome."

He called the experience "pretty electric. A dream come true, but I had to put those emotions aside and kind of figure it out and go on from there."

The action was "faster than the preseason, obviously,'' he said. "It's another level, and you have to make sure you don't get spooked out by it and just play your game."

Originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, Hayes chose to exhaust his college eligibility through last winter. The day after the Blackhawks' rights to Hayes expired in August, he signed as a free agent with the Rangers.

He has good hockey genes. His older brother Jimmy plays for the Florida Panthers and two of his cousins -- Tom Fitzgerald and Keith Tkachuk -- are former NHL players.

So was the night a launching pad to great things or just a fly-by experience for Hayes? Wait. Not so fast . . .


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