The Coyotes saw plenty of potential in Barrett Hayton, though they probably didn’t expect him to stick around for the start of the NHL regular season when they drafted the center fifth overall this past summer. But injuries to Alex Galchenyuk and Christian Dvorak opened the door for Hayton, 18, who was eventually returned to the OHL after watching Arizona’s first two games of 2018-19 from the press box.
Hayton comes with a winning pedigree, and it was on display last year with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, which just happened to be the best edition of that team ever. The Hounds went 55-7-6, winning the Western Conference before getting upset by a sturdy Hamilton squad in the championship series. The Soo was led by NHL picks such as Morgan Frost (Philadelphia) and Boris Katchouk (Tampa Bay), but coach Drew Bannister – now with AHL San Antonio – knew the value of young Hayton. “Barrett is an outstanding individual, such a mature young man,” Bannister said. “As a coach it was easy to find a place for him to play anywhere in my lineup and he would excel. Whether it was at center or wing, putting him out for important faceoffs on the penalty kill, playing the middle on the power play as a bumper or playing net-front, he seemed to excel and make players around him better. He has outstanding leadership abilities, and a lot of his peers are drawn to him because of his work ethic.”
For Hayton, soaking up lessons from more experienced teammates was a great way to spend his draft year. “It was very important,” he said. “Having those older guys to learn from and bounce ideas off was huge for my development.”
A big fan of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Hayton prides himself on playing a 200-foot game. He’ll continue his development on a Soo team that, despite a lot of high-profile departures, is not rebuilding just yet. “We have a lot of key guys moving on, but we still have a very strong core,” Hayton said. “I’m looking forward to taking a very large role.”
He’s already ahead of schedule and, with his talent up front, the Hounds have a player who is ready to take center stage.
This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.