The 2018 NHL Draft was one of the biggest for the Arizona Coyotes, as they had the third-best odds for the first overall selection. Unfortunately, they ended up dropping back two spots to the fifth selection due to bad luck in the lottery. Despite that, they still had plenty of good options and eventually took center Barrett Hayton. A curveball to most, but the Coyotes desperately needed a center, as he dominated the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playing mostly second-line minutes behind teammate Morgan Frost.
Related: Barrett Hayton Draft Profile
Why did the Coyotes take Hayton? In his draft year, the 17-year-old scored 21 goals and 39 assists for 60 points in only 63 games. It wasn’t a bad season for him, especially since he played on the second line and almost averaged a point per game. He also proved he could play in more challenging situations, recording 21 points in 24 playoff games. So, now that we have more background information on him, let’s see what both sides have been able to get so far.
Hayton’s Early Career Struggles
Being drafted into the NHL puts a lot of pressure on hockey players, especially as a top-five pick. After being selected by the Coyotes, Hayton returned to the OHL to tune up his game. During that season with the Soo Greyhounds, he had a great year registering 66 points in just 39 games. So what went wrong? He did not perform well in his freshman year of NHL play; instead, he put up one goal and three assists in a short stint of 20 games. During the playoffs that year, he played just three games and was a healthy scratch for most of it.
Despite having a lot of early struggles, Hayton had an impressive World Juniors for Team Canada. He played seven games and put up 12 points. He was also the captain of Canada during the run. This showed he had great leadership skills and received enough playing time to eventually translate it to the NHL. This was a very promising sign for Hayton and the Coyotes, and many were looking forward to seeing him play in the future. For him, this was a step forward in becoming a second or even first-line center in the NHL.
Hayton Still Has Potential
With Hayton only being 22 years old, he still has a chance to live up to his expectations. As he has struggled to do so recently, he has a chance to turn things around. He tried his best to do that this past season as he recorded 24 points in 60 games. While that was not what a former top-five pick should be producing, it was a positive direction for him. Especially for someone who has struggled to play at the NHL level consistently in the past.
The Coyotes are in no rush to win now, so this presents an opportunity for Hayton to develop into the player he was said to be when drafted fifth overall. Sometimes playing on a rebuilding team can be a good thing. Just like it was for Clayton Keller, who had a career year last season. If Hayton can replicate that in 2022-23, fans could be in store for a fantastic year.
What the Future Holds for Hayton
Now, what can we expect from Hayton this upcoming year? Many things include being in the NHL the whole season and maintaining a roster spot. Unfortunately, that has been a struggle in the past. He is already off to a good start if he can accomplish that. Many Coyotes fans would like to see him get more ice time. Of course, playing on the fourth or third line can be hard to put up points and succeed. More playing time would show the world who he really is.
Hayton still has untapped potential despite all these factors. Putting him on the first line would undoubtedly put him in an excellent position to succeed. Even if he’s not playing on the first line, chemistry with his linemates would be huge. If he has talented teammates next to him, I think it’s only a matter of time until we see his full potential.