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Rookie Jimmy Hayes adds quickness to stature

Jimmy Hayes (39) swipes puck his NHL debut Friday. The 6-6 221-pounder has improved his skating. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Jimmy Hayes (39) swipes at the puck in his NHL debut Friday. The 6-6, 221-pounder has improved his skating. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 1, 2012 8:10AM

The only player in the Blackhawks’ locker room who can look down on rookie winger Jimmy Hayes is giant-sized John Scott. Hayes is just two inches shorter.

At 6-6 and 221 pounds, Hayes is one of the biggest prospects in the Hawks’ system. Coach Joel Quenneville and the Hawks’ brass thought it was time to see if his game caught up to his coveted stature. Hayes was called up Thursday after smaller forwards Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith had their chances.

“I like his size,” Quenneville said. “[But] he’s got a nice set of hands. He’s got some quickness to his game.”

Hayes was thrust into a different situation for his NHL debut Friday against the Detroit Red Wings than Pirri, who was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs when Hayes was recalled. Hayes started on the fourth line with Jamal Mayers and Andrew Brunette.

Pirri had more expectations put on him. With Marcus Kruger out with a concussion, Pirri centered the second line with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

“[Finding consistency] is part of the process for young guys,” Quenneville said. “[Pirri] is still 20 years old and working his way here and trying to find a place and niche. Technically, he’s improved. But I think that’s probably the learning curve to be expected from a young guy, especially at center.”

Hayes also is one of the Hawks’ older prospects at 22. Hayes, the 60th pick in 2008, was acquired from the Maple Leafs for the 43rd pick in the 2010 draft (Bradley Ross), after the Hawks selected his younger brother Kevin with their first-round pick in the same draft. They are second cousins of former NHLers Keith Tkachuk and Tom Fitzgerald.

“It’s great to learn from them,” Hayes said. “They give great ­advice. They’ve been through it.”

Jimmy Hayes said he has devoted ample time to improving his skating. He had 18 points in 28 games for the IceHogs and had 42 goals and 39 assists in 117 games with Boston College before joining Rockford.

“Obviously, I’m a big guy,” Hayes said. “I have to be able to move out there.”

Quenneville has seen a difference.

“I noticed that in camp,” he said. “I thought he added some quickness to his stride. You watch him on the ice, he’s got movement in tight areas and a jump to his step.”

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