Joining Bruins ‘dream come true' for local kid Hayes

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It’s kind of cliché to say it’s a dream come true for a hometown kid to play for the team he grew up worshiping, but that’s exactly where Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes finds himself after getting traded to the Bruins.

The 6-foot-6, 221-pound Hayes, 25, grew up living and dying with the Bruins as a hockey-loving tot and got a tiny taste of what the Bruins experience might be like while participating in the Beanpot at TD Garden every year while playing for Boston College.

Still, things went next level on Wednesday when Hayes, the cousin of Bruins draft pick Ryan Fitzgerald, Bruins top scout Scottie Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, learned he’d be wearing Black and Gold after a trade from the Florida Panthers.

Hayes was giddy with excitement and exuberance after learning he’d been dealt to Boston, with right wing Reilly Smith and Marc Savard’s contract going to Florida. He's looking forward to donning that Black and Gold sweater.

“It’s a dream come true for me. I grew up a Boston Bruins fan, and having the chance to play for the Boston Bruins is a dream come true,” said Hayes, who posted 19 goals and 35 points for the Panthers last season. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s probably one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in a while.

“I’ve been following the Bruins — obviously, they’re my hometown team, and you have that general interest — and playing against them a few times in a row. Where I am in terms of fitting in with this team, I know the Bruins like to play the big, power-type style of game, so I’m going to have to continue to develop myself into that type of player and continue to use my size and scoring ability to my advantage.”

Hayes’ willingness to use his size and strength to win battles and go to the dirty areas is clearly something the Bruins took note in their games against Florida last season and it’s something GM Don Sweeney recognized as an area of need. By trading for Hayes, and signing fellow big body Matt Beleskey, Sweeney and the Bruins have made a couple of big steps toward bringing some toughness and courage back to the team. Both Beleskey and Hayes are power players that are willing to pay the price around the net and will actually venture into the corners for the puck.

Those qualities make Hayes a much better fit on the wing for the Bruins than the contact-shy Smith ever really did

“We’re extremely excited to have a player like Jimmy [Hayes] heading to our team. He has a lot of upside and he had a breakout year offensively,” said Sweeney. “I think he’s excited to play with the centermen that we have. He was equally excited, obviously, with the young players they had in Florida. He’s got a chance to come home and play in front of his family and friends, which will present some challenges for him as well. But he went to school here and I thought it made a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.

“[Beleskey and Hayes] are both heavy players in and around the net; they get to the net area, they both shoot the puck very well and they both have some size and strength in the hard areas of the ice…[those are] things that we identified that we need to get better at. To have the ability to score goals in the National Hockey League, it’s not an easy task, and between them, they scored 40 goals. I think that we hope there’s even more upside to be played out with these two players.”

Hayes jumped from 11 goals to 19 goals for the Panthers in his second full NHL season and it’s certainly reasonable to expect even more growth from him. That goes double for a player who will be the first legit Boston kid donning the Black and Gold as a Bruins regular in a good, long time.

 

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