Editor’s note: When we planned to do these prospect profiles starting in January, it was with the expectation that the draft would be front and center in the minds of Avalanche fans. Since that time, the team has exceeded expectations and made this season a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Regardless of that, we are going to start a series looking at prospects for the 2018 draft that should be of interest to Avs fans as the summer draws near.
A former top-10 pick in the OHL Priority Selection, Barrett Hayton is one of the fastest climbing prospects in this year’s NHL Entry Draft - and with good reason. Hayton is a smart, do-it-all center that some scouts think has a Patrice Bergeron vibe to his game and he is definitely going to make someone drafting in the 5-15 range very happy.
He is on a point per game pace in his second OHL season, playing for the dominant Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds. His 17 goals and 42 assists has him third on his team, but he is currently tied for the lead among all draft-eligible OHL forwards with 27 5v5.
He is lower on the depth chart than many star players, but that is only because of how strong the Greyhounds are. While a number of the Soo’s players were away for the World Juniors, Hayton proved that he can step into a bigger role and excel. He had 10 points in six games during the time his top teammates were away.
Calling him a two-way center shouldn't take away from the fact that he has elite offensive talent. Hayton is a slick skating forward who mixes skill with size and has learned to play an unselfish game.
The knock coming out of his rookie season was his footspeed, but that is something that has improved drastically. He still doesn’t have the best top speed, but he moves well and uses great routes in order to get around the ice quickly. This season, he has shown the ability to pick up the tempo on the rush and create dangerous drives to the net.
He is a very crafty stick-handler who has a great release and a deceivingly quick shot. While Hayton has strong scoring ability, he has the natural instincts to know when to shoot and when to become a playmaker.
Defensively, he is very aggressive in puck pursuits and always seems to leave the corner battles with the puck on his stick. He puts on a lot of pressure to frustrate opponents, creating turnovers in the neutral zone. He has a calmness to his game that allows him to succeed in all areas of the ice and can play a physical game when he needs to.
What the scouts say
”A jack of all trades type of player who excels in the prototypical 200-foot game. Is making the most out of increased offensive opportunities.” - Sam Cosentino - Sportsnet
“Hayton can play and contribute in all situations. He reminds me of Boston Bruins star Patrice Bergeron in the sense of being complete, strong and able to produce whatever play is necessary to win. Like Bergeron, there’s not a lot of flash to his game, but winning teams will always value players with Hayton’s skills.” - Craig Button - TSN
Projecting his future
Often when a player is labeled as a “low-risk” pick, it means that he’s a safe bet to make it to the NHL but that he doesn’t have the high-end potential that usually warrants a top-15 pick. That’s not the case with Hayton.
He has the talent to be a top-line player in the NHL, but more importantly, he has the mind and hockey IQ to make an impact in any role. The team that drafts Hayton will know they are getting an NHLer, it’s just a matter of how high he climbs the depth chart.
Even though he is one of the younger players in the draft, Hayton is the type of player that can start in a lesser role as a teenager and develop in the NHL - a lot like Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers. He’ll return to the OHL next season, but Hayton is likely only one year away from an NHL debut.
Expected Draft Position: 10-15