Hours after the Chicago Blackhawks and NHL office made his first professional hockey contract official, Jimmy Hayes got his first experience in the pro ranks for the Rockford IceHogs.
Under the guise of an amateur-try out contract, Hayes made his debut in Cleveland on Wednesday night as the IceHogs took on the Lake Erie Monsters. Hayes’ entry-level pro contract with the Hawks kicks in on July 1st.
Hayes acquitted himself quite well in his unofficial pro debut. He exhibited nice hands, decent wheels and didn’t seem too out of place all things considered. The adjustment from college to the pro-pace wasn’t too much of a factor, at least in Lake Erie. Oklahoma City on Friday poses a different challenge.
On his first shift, skating with Mathis Olimb and Ben Smith on the Hogs’ second-line Hayes showed good strides in transition leading a Hogs’ odd-man rush up the right side boards. Hayes strung a slick pass just an inch or two further than Olimb could handle though, coming down just left of the slot and they didn’t get a scoring chance there.
In the middle period, Hayes again led a rush, but it also amounted to nothing. Hayes was carrying the lead with Olimb and Andy Bohmbach on a 3-on-2, but Hayes lost the handle as he strode through the right circle. He finished the game with three shots. He’s not shy on the body but it appears he prefers to use his stick and he’ll have to shake that too much finesse with his head down college habit. So its great for the Hawks, and IceHogs, Hayes is able to join up for some valuable minutes before an all-important off season.
Before the game Bill Peters noted he plans to dress Hayes in all seven (Wednesday included) of the IceHogs remaining games. Peters was down six regulars (add another if you count Jeremy Morin) on Wednesday, so Hayes saw as much or more ice time as he figures to get in any single outing over the final two weeks of the season.