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Friday Four: Rangers' Hayes coming into his own

by Kevin Weekes /

Each Friday throughout the regular season Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four in his Weekes on the Web blog. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, trends or really four of whatever in the NHL that have caught his eye.

A rookie in New York, the Los Angeles Kings coming on, and two defensemen that are on my radar and better be on yours too. It's all in my Friday Four:

1. It's happening for Hayes

New York Rangers rookie Kevin Hayes has 12 points in his past 13 games. That's impressive for him.

One thing you have to give the Rangers credit for is their scouting and drafting and development. They've done a really good job, an excellent job for the most part, in developing talent. Sometimes it is about guys they trade for or acquire, whether it's an off-the-grid guy like Mats Zuccarello or a guy like Hayes, who has a big body and can skate and play.

Kevin Hayes
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 29
SOG: 73 | +/-: 9
I think what we have seen in Hayes in the past 20 days or so is exactly what the Rangers foresaw when they signed him. He's playing a faster game and recognizing his size. He's playing faster in the middle of the ice. He's getting to the net a lot more. Now he's starting to believe and realize that he can make plays offensively at the NHL level.

Quite honestly I think it's also helpful, and Kevin said this to us a couple weeks ago, he's paying attention to everything that Rick Nash does. He said everything Nash does he watches, and we're talking on and off the ice. When you look at the season Nash is having and now watch Hayes, it's pretty obvious Hayes is telling the truth, that he does pay attention to Nash.

Hayes showed his versatility against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday when Nash was out of the lineup. He played left wing. He never plays left wing. But he played left wing and scored the only goal in the 1-0 win. Now he's back at center, but he can play right wing too. That's huge for the Rangers.

Let's not forget the Rangers traded first-round draft picks to get Nash and to get Martin St. Louis, but in signing Hayes they signed a guy who was a first-round pick but already through his development years and ready to contribute in the NHL.

We can talk about the first-round picks the Rangers don't have, but instead they have Nash, St. Louis and Hayes. I'll take that trade.

2. Kings are coming

Look out for the Los Angeles Kings. They won eight straight games befoer a 1-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, proving again their ability to raise their game when it matters. It's not just about sensing the urgency, it's about being able respond to that urgency by picking up your game and, well, dominating.

You know how you have On Demand on your television; it's almost like the Kings' game is on demand. They can just access different levels of their game when they want to. It sounds crazy, but it's true.

I talked to guys in that room three weeks ago and they were like, "We have to dial it in, we have to dial it in." They knew it, but my point is they have actually gone out and done it. That's a different level.

I loved the way they approached the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game last week. They approached it in a business-like manner, not many family and friends with them. It was a business trip and they took care of business. They locked it down.

Jonathan Quick has dialed his game up, and the Kings as a whole have dialed their game up.

General manager Dean Lombardi is working. He re-signed forward Kyle Clifford, who is an important depth player on that team, and he acquired defenseman Andrej Sekera. That's big for the Kings because some of their guys were overextended and they still had the hole defenseman Slava Voynov left.

I think it's unbelievable they're able to do what they need to do when they need to do it every single time. You don't see that too often. That's very difficult to do and it's impressive that they can.

3. The other star on Nashville's blue line

Roman Josi. I mean, look at this guy. He's so good and nobody is talking about him.

Let's just take a look at some of his numbers:

Roman Josi
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 33 | PTS: 44
SOG: 148 | +/-: 19
Josi has 44 points and is a plus-19 with only 18 penalty minutes playing 26:28 per game. People don't talk about him because he's not the best defenseman on the Nashville Predators, but Josi has four more points and actually plays four more seconds per game than Weber. Neither of those stats is very telling for comparison's sake, but Josi's numbers, not to mention watching him play, tells me this guy is a star and we should be talking about him more.

Josi is having an unreal season, and now his shot is good enough where they don't have to use Weber's shot all the time. That's scary, because now Josi can beat you from there too.

The thing too is that people will say he's having all this success because he plays with Weber. No, that's wrong. He's having all this success because he's good enough to play with Weber, not just because he plays with him. There is a difference, a big difference.

To play with a guy like Weber means you're going to play against some of the best players in the NHL, and you have to think the game at an elite level and play the game at an elite level with instincts that are the same as Weber's. It's not just skating with a guy, it's playing with a guy. Weber's expectations are high. If he reads a play and Josi doesn't see it the same way, Weber is going to be a frustrated guy and he'll let Josi know.

Josi deserves a ton of credit. Weber is a world-class player, but so is Josi.

4. Letang for Norris?

Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins has played 55 games, which is five, six or seven fewer than most others, and he has 47 points and is a plus-11. He's having an unbelievable season, and oh, by the way, let's mix in that he's coming off of a stroke. Let's just mix that in there for good measure.

Letang is fearless. How do you come off of a stroke and be fearless? How do you come off of a stroke and still play at the same tempo, a higher tempo than most guys in the League? How do you miss games because of a stroke, bounce back and play 26 minutes a game?

He's doing it. I think he's a Norris Trophy candidate right now. I think he can be one of the three finalists if he continues to play the way he is playing for the remainder of the regular season.

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