Why it is time to get excited for Chicago Blackhawks prospect Gavin Hayes

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The IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship is fast approaching, and Chicago Blackhawks forward Gavin Hayes has a chance to help Team USA win the tournament.

He is one of four Hawks prospects to make the tournament roster.

Hayes skated on the fourth line in Team USA's exhibition game against Sweden. Fellow Blackhawks prospect Oliver Moore was on the same line.

Hayes being on the bottom line is an indication of the versatility he can provide to the Chicago Blackhawks someday. Most draft profiles had Hayes' floor as a bottom-line player with the ceiling to be a top-line forward. Hayes also can play on the power play and the penalty kill. He was the 97th-best draft prospect according to the Athletic before he was taken by the Blackhawks in the third round.

He has been skating on the top line for the Flint Firebirds of the OHL. Hayes is leading the Firebirds in goals and points. Last season he scored 41 goals along with 40 assists. He is also good at staying out of the box with just 10 penalty minutes in 27 games this season.

Hayes has already signed his entry-level deal but since he did not make the Blackhawks out of training camp, his deal does not kick in until next season.

Firebirds head coach Paul Flache raves about Hayes' enthusiasm for the game and how good of a teammate he is on the bench during a game.

Hawks' general manager Kyle Davidson loves how Hayes can find the back of the net. You also got to think they liked how he craves to learn the game and his character. Hockey intelligence and character are two of the four biggest traits Davidson looks for in a prospect.

Hayes will probably start his pro career in the AHL in Rockford next season. Davidson is not going to rush any prospect up.

He is certainly not going to rush up his second-best prospect according to Elite Prospects. The Athletic ranked Hayes 10th among Hawks prospects back in August, but that list included Connor Bedard, Kevin Korchinski, and Lukas Reichel all of whom no longer qualify as prospects.

The unknown projection of what line Hayes will be on may not be exciting. If the Chicago Blackhawks are to win another Stanley Cup someday, they need quality players on all four lines. Being a versatile player is what makes this forward exciting.

He may not become an All-Star, but Hayes could be a player who helps out on the special team units, anchors a solid third line, or provides hitting on the fourth line. He still has the upside to be a top line with Bedard or form a great second line with center prospect Frank Nazar, who is also on Team USA in the World Juniors.

Remember, Hayes is a player who is already thought highly enough to compete among the best players in the world at the junior level. The Hawks thought highly of him to already sign him to his entry-level deal. You can never have enough versatile forwards. That is why there is excitement about what he can contribute to the next great Blackhawks team.