2018 NHL draft prospect profile #18: Barrett Hayton

WINDSOR, ON - OCTOBER 05: Forward Barrett Hayton #27 of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds celebrates his first period goal against the Windsor Spitfires on October 5, 2017 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ON - OCTOBER 05: Forward Barrett Hayton #27 of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds celebrates his first period goal against the Windsor Spitfires on October 5, 2017 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images) /

It’s been a while since one our profiles, but today we feature an effective, yet safe centre. Barrett Hayton does all of the little things right without standing out in any particular area, but will be a welcomed addition to any prospect pool.

Ah, the safe pick. I’m not particularly fond of chasing safe players for a few reasons. Ultimately, I’m willing to take a chance on the imperfect forward with a high skill ceiling. Perhaps the Vancouver Canucks skew my view on safe picks. During a time where high-end skill is desperately needed, I’m not thrilled about going safe.

Normally, players with lower floors end up in disappointment. Sure, some may feel that a centre has top six potential when they top out as a third line pivot in the NHL. Regarding Barrett Hayton, he is somewhat in the middle (pun absolutely intended). Some ranking services are overvaluing his skill set, projecting him a little too high for my liking. Context is everything and we will learn more about that later.

All in all, Hayton is a well-rounded player. Teams will love his skating, hands and commitment to defence. Hayton is fairly strong now with more room to grow. Those skills may not be high end, but his game lacks any real flaws. You won’t get a flashy player as he moves up the leagues, but as the theme of today shows, he’s a low-risk guy. Here’s more on one of the best forwards from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

The stats rundown

*Counting stats provided by EliteProspects

Height: 185 cm/6’1″

Weight: 84 kg/185 lbs

Birthdate: June 9, 2000

Position: Centre

Handedness: Left

Team (league): Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)






#9 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (North America)

#7 by Craig Button

#12 by Bob McKenzie (April Rankings)

#19 by Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects)


More from Draft

So, before we get into the stats, let’s give Hayton a little context. The Ivan Hlinka Tournament gave him a great start to the season, with a six-point performance in five games. That explains why Craig Button’s ranking is so high.

As for the team he played for, the Greyhounds were the best team in the OHL. Hayton was surrounded by incredible talent. Morgan Frost, Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh all had excellent years. Two of that trio also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors.

Those three also played incredibly well during the postseason, claiming three of the top five spots in points. Because of this, Hayton was pushed down the lineup, playing in a second line role for most of the season. It also meant that Hayton did not take the toughest defensive matchups.

Playing with Frost may have boosted his production, but Hayton consistently produced primary points at 5v5. He did not rely on power play points and producing at a point-per-game clip is impressive, given his deployment. Hayton was very productive in the playoffs, collecting 21 points in 24 games.

Scouting reports

Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst:

"Slick, two-way center who can beat you in a variety of ways. (…) Hayton’s a strong skater with excellent balance. He won’t blow past defenders immediately after his first or second step, but his straight-line speed when combined with the likelihood of a sudden change in direction keeps opponents guessing. (…) He can be a relentless forechecker, especially on the penalty kill, and he will use his body effectively to protect the puck."

Mark Scheig, The Hockey Writers:

"So what do we have in Hayton? We have someone who does a lot of things well. He can score with an excellent shot. He’s a good passer. He has some of the best hands in this draft. He can kill penalties and isn’t afraid to forecheck the heck out of you. He’s relentless on defense. Although his overall skills aren’t elite, they’re very good."

Ben Kerr, Last Word on Hockey:

"Hayton plays a straightforward game. He protects the puck well on the cycle and has some soft hands. However, he is not the type of forward to dangle a defenceman and get past him in a one-on-one situation. (…)Defensively Hayton backchecks hard and shows good positioning. He provides solid back pressure and puck support, helping his defence. He battles hard on the boards, containing his man down low, and keeping him from getting to the front of the net."

What we think

As I alluded to earlier, I like swinging for the fences on draft picks. While Hayton is not exactly that, he has all the tools to become a future NHL player. His defensive ability is a little overstated, but is very effective. Next year should test him when he faces tougher assignments.

Safe picks aren’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you just need a reliable centre and Hayton is exactly that. I see him as a middle six pivot over the long term. He won’t be ready immediately for the NHL, but he is part of a great development program in the OHL as he refines his game.

Hayton will have to get stronger (like many prospects), but that will just make him even more effective in his own end. With safety comes versatility. Hayton can play any forward position and play well in all situations. Honestly, the knock against him is that he doesn’t seem like a game-changer.

Next: How to fix the draft lottery

Depending on the status of your team’s prospect pool, you may be very interested in Hayton. For the Vancouver Canucks, who lack centres, Hayton would be a nice pick. I would be interested in him if Jim Benning can find a way to pick up a mid first. You can never have too many centres. Even if they don’t play down the middle, they can fill out the wing. I usually say don’t pick for position, but at this spot in the first round, I don’t think you could go wrong.