When considering New England prospects for the NHL draft, folks have been calling close friends Charlie Coyle and Kevin Hayes 1 and 1a for a reason.
The pair arrived in Los Angeles on the same plane from Boston, seated next to each other, then sat in the same row Friday night at the Staples Center. They came in ranked ever so close in the final Central Scouting combine rankings (Coyle 24th, Hayes 26th among North Americans) and were expected to come off the board late in the first round.
Fittingly, the two got their wishes just four picks apart. Hayes, a Dorchester resident who lit up the Independent School League this season at Noble & Greenough, was taken by the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks with the 24th overall pick. Four spots later, the Weymouth-bred Coyle, a stud this season for the Eastern Junior Hockey League's South Shore Kings, was picked by the San Jose Sharks.
"We're always competing against each other," said Coyle, who becomes the highest draft pick ever to come out of the EJHL. "We're good friends, and that was our goal together, to get picked in the first round tonight, and then you watch it happen. It's unbelievable."
Coyle says he traded a series of text messages with Hayes, joking that he hopes to fall to Chicago at No. 30 (the Blackhawks ended up trading the 30th pick to the Islanders). He kept his comments to reporters pretty vanilla, repeatedly stating how happy he was to be picked anywhere, but he did admit the call from San Jose was a bit of a bolt from the blue.
"I had met them at the [NHL] combine and interviewed," said Coyle, who will suit up for Boston University this fall. "It was kind of a surprise, but like I said I'm happy with it."
Reminded that the Sharks have a history with kids from this area, Coyle continued, "Like I said, it was a bit of a surprise to be picked by them. But I've heard of the local kids before, so I'm really honored to be a part of this organization."
Hayes, who is bound for Boston College, wasn't as surprised by where he landed; he said the Blackhawks were one of the first teams to reach out to him. He also had the help of his older brother, Jimmy, who was drafted in the second round by the Maple Leafs two years ago.
"He was sitting right next to me," Hayes said. "He kept telling me 'Just wait for your name to be called, it's just a number.' Having him has been huge, he's been my idol forever. Just to have him next to me, stressing this on me, is unbelievable."
While both Coyle and Hayes measure around 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, where they finally differ is their skill sets. Scouts describe Coyle as having an "NHL-ready" body, able to establish middle-drive and push the half-boards while also quarterbacking the power play.
Hayes, meanwhile, has made a name for himself with his accurate shot and playmaking ability. One NHL scout said he hasn't seen a level of creativity like Hayes' out of this region in nearly two decades.