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Draft Flashback: Jimmy Hayes

by Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks
Jimmy Hayes was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 (Photo by Getty Images).

He wasn't a Blackhawks draft pick, but Jimmy Hayes nonetheless joined Chicago on draft day. While his brother Kevin became the Blackhawks' top pick in 2010, the team also acquired Jimmy's rights that same weekend, dealing a second-round pick to Toronto.

The elder Hayes made his professional debut in 2011-12, splitting time between Chicago's AHL affiliate in Rockford and the big club, scoring five goals and four assists in 31 games with the Blackhawks. caught up with Hayes as he reflected on his draft year, making the move to Chicago's system and more.

Did you know what to expect going into the draft process?

Looking back to that season, I wasn’t really sure. I thought I’d go maybe later in the first round or early in the second round. As it turned out, I went later in the second round to Toronto. You never know what to expect: I didn’t know beforehand that Toronto was going to be the team that took me. To have the chance to be at the draft in Ottawa, and to go down onto the draft floor – I didn’t go up on stage – and to be down by the table, get the jersey and meet everybody is a great experience.

Let’s go back to the combine. How would you best describe that experience?

It’s pretty unnerving. It was great to go through the whole process and learn. As a young kid, I remember being extremely nervous during my first interview with a team. And then all of the physical tests, having all of the trainers, coaches and general managers staring at you, it was nerve-racking. It was a good experience because it got you to learn how to handle those types of situations. It definitely has helped me since.

The whole combine process just seems so daunting, physically and emotionally.

It’s a really hard process. The bike tests are the hardest – it’s extremely hard on your body. It’s the one thing you really train for is to score well on the bike test. Physically, it’s a really big challenge.

Were you interviewed by the Maple Leafs during the combine?

I did get interviewed by Toronto, but I think I had about 20 teams that I interviewed with, maybe more than that.

Did they give you any sense that they were interested before the draft?

Not really, but I would have been happy to go anywhere. You talk to a bunch of teams, and you don’t get a read on anybody. You walk into the meetings, they all make you feel good and it’s a process. You feel like you could go to anyone because if they take the time to talk with you, it probably means that they’re interested. You just have to go with the flow and you should be honored when anyone takes you.

You feel like you could go to anyone because if they take the time to talk with you, it probably means that they’re interested. You just have to go with the flow and you should be honored when anyone takes you. - Jimmy Hayes, on the interview process

So you didn't have any preference on who you wanted to select you?

No. Most people going through the draft think about the local team. I grew up near Boston, but I just wanted to be drafted. It didn’t matter much.

What was it like to be selected?

I was in the crowd at the draft in Ottawa, and they announced it. I didn’t know until they announced the pick. My whole family came with me: my mom, my dad, my three sisters and my brother, and actually two of my brother’s buddies were there. There was a lot of excitement when they called me. It was a great moment.

At the next year’s draft, your brother Kevin was selected in the first round by Chicago, and they acquired your rights, as well. When did you know you had both become members of the Blackhawks?

I didn’t even know that I had been traded until the next day. We were all at the draft on Friday night when Kevin got picked. Toronto needed some picks, so they traded my rights to Chicago for their pick in the second round. I wasn’t expecting it, but everything worked out for the best. I can’t really complain.

It must have been exciting when your family found out that both of you would be part of one organization.

It was great. Unbelievable. We had a chance to play together at Boston College, so being able to play with each other in the pros would be unbelievable. We were just excited at the thought of getting that chance.

What is one piece of advice you’d have for someone going through this draft process?

There would be a couple of things. The biggest piece of advice I’d give to any kid going through the draft is that when you’re at the combine, make sure to give it all that you’ve got.

Going into the draft itself, you should never set the bar on where you think you should be picked. Wherever you get picked, and by whichever team, that means that they want you. You can succeed anywhere.

The first-round picks get treated just as well as the seventh-round picks. I think they should just be grateful to have the chance to play pro hockey.

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