In the scouting world, this year has been dominated by headlines about the Rasmus Dahlins, Andrei Svechnikovs, Filip Zadinas, Adam Boqvists and Brady Tkachuks so much that sometimes you almost lose track of the slew of other impressive prospects that are going to be available in June. I will be the first to admit that even I have been guilty of underrating some prospects, or not giving them the attention that they deserve. Today, I am specifically talking about one such player that should be getting talked more about than he is, Barrett Hayton.
I will admit that Hayton was not on my radar until I watched the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament last August. While I will get more to why I felt this way below, I left the Ivan Hlinka tournament with a very strong impression of him, but was ultimately hoping that he would fly under the radar and perhaps fall into the top 60, so I put reviewing his tape more rigorously to the side as I went over other players available this year. Alas, it looks like Hayton has left a very strong impression on a lot of pro scouts as well. Perhaps even stronger than my initial impression of him, in fact. Last Monday, the midterm rankings for NHL Central Scouting were released. One of the biggest surprises for me, by far, was that Hayton was sitting in the top 10, and is currently the highest ranked Canadian-born forward on the midterm rankings. Currently, he’s ranked ahead of the likes of Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Akil Thomas, Joel Farabee, Jared McIsaac, Joe Veleno, Ty Smith, and a host of other top prospects. With that being the case, my curiosity was piqued, and I thought it was finally time to give Hayton the time he was due to go over his tape more thoroughly. So, the critical question is, why are scouts so high on Hayton, and what kind of player is he?
Name: Barrett Hayton
Date of Birth: June 9, 2000
Birthplace: Kitchener, ON, Canada
Current Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Wears: #27 (#21 in international play)
Weight: 185 lbs
Player Comparison: Patrice Bergeron
ISS Hockey: 15th
Future Considerations: 27th
McKeen’s Hockey: 18th
NHL CSS (NA Skaters): 6th
Part of what initially drew me to Hayton at the Ivan Hlinkas was how much his coach counted on him to shut down the top lines of opponents. He was always the first player that the coach of Team Canada looked to when Canada needed to win a key draw in the defensive zone, and was a fixture on the team’s penalty kill. Hayton thrived in a checking role at the tournament, and showed a dependability in all three zones that you rarely see for a player his age, and did so while being 2nd on the team in scoring, and leading Canada in goals. Hayton is an incredibly intelligent player that has outstanding awareness on the ice. He is very aggressive on the forecheck throughout the offensive zone and neutral zone, and will hound puck-carrying opponents over the entire surface of the ice. He has a very active stick, and is really good at creating turnovers. You will regularly see him create turnovers with his back pressure through the neutral zone and in the defensive zone. Opponents need to be wary and protect the puck whenever he steps on the ice, because if they let their guard down, he will end up stealing their lunch money. This may be partly due to recency bias, but of any of the forwards I’ve watched that are eligible for the draft, Hayton sticks out as having the best puck pursuit habits I’ve seen. Hayton is also very good along the boards and in the corners, and more often than not, will come away with the puck on his stick from such battles. On the PK, he is a monster. His defensive zone awareness, positioning, his ability to win faceoffs, and his two-way game make him a serious threat, as he’s good at stripping the puck off of opponents in his defensive zone and carrying the play up ice for shorthanded opportunities.
As impressive as he is on the defensive side of the puck, Hayton is no slouch offensively. Of all first-time draft eligible forwards in the OHL, Hayton currently sits 5th in all situation primary scoring, despite playing limited minutes on a very deep Greyhounds squad. In fact, during the time that a number of his teammates were gone to play in the World Juniors, Hayton filled the hole created in the lineup while they were gone, recording 10 points in 6 games. In 44 games played this season, Hayton has scored 17 goals, and recorded 25 assists while playing lower in the Greyhounds’ depth. He is currently tied for 3rd in goals, behind only Aidan Dudas and Andrei Svechnikov, and is tied for 5th with Aidan Dudas in primary assists, behind only Ryan McLeod, Akil Thomas, Allan McShane, and Cam Hillis. At 5v5, he is currently 8th among all draft-eligible forwards in G/60, and 7th in A1/60.
Hayton has the offensive skill that compliments his two-way play very nicely. He is a great stickhandler, and the release on his shot is quick, powerful, and is very deceptive. Hayton possesses impressive hand-eye coordination, and soft hands in close around the net. He’s able to make plays in close quarters in the greasy areas of the ice very effectively, and he thrives in those dirty areas of the ice. He sees the ice very well, and can set up his teammates just as well as he can finish plays. He demonstrates very good decision making with the puck, knowing when it would be better to make a play to his teammates, or to take the shot himself.
There are very few things that I could say that Hayton needs to work on. He comes as a very complete package, and has very few holes in his game. He is someone that I can guarantee has a game that would translate to the NHL level, and his ceiling is as a top tier two-way center that can be counted on not only to contribute offensively on a consistent basis, but can shut down his competition on the defensive side of the puck. If there is anything that you might consider a hole, it’s his footspeed, which was a knock for him last year. However, this is something that has shown improvement this season. His top speed is not the best, but it’s not a deal breaker either. His skating mechanics are still very good, his edgework and balance are definitely above average, if anything, and he is still able to get around the ice quickly and play a very up-tempo game.
Overall, Hayton’s hockey sense is among the best I’ve seen in the draft when you look at his game as a whole. There is a calm confidence, poise, and maturity to the way that he approaches and thinks out the game that puts him in a position to succeed in any scenario you put him in, and for that reason, he is someone who I could see being captain material in the NHL someday. When I mentioned that his playing style reminds me of Patrice Bergeron, the comparison is blatantly obvious, although I should stress that this is a stylistic comparison, and not a comparison on the basis of actual ability. That being said, in the hypothetical scenario that he hits his ceiling in the NHL, while I wouldn’t expect him to win any Art Rosses or Rocket Richards, he’s the type of player that you could anticipate seeing in contention for the Selke Trophy.
Notes: This footage is of Hayton from the 2016 OHL Cup, when he was still playing for the Toronto Red Wings Minor Midget AAA team in the GTMMHL. Hayton would later be drafted 9th overall in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft. Hayton can be seen in the white and red, wearing #27. He scores a goal at 4:52, but the actual footage of him scoring it is missing. At around 21:28, he helps lead a rush that eventually ends with him assisting on the game-winning goal at 21:43.
Video Credit: benwoohockeymom - YouTube
Notes: Assists on goals at 1:27:10 and 2:16:40. Video Credits: Hockey Slovakia - YouTube
Notes: Scores a goal at 23:47. Video Credit: Hockey Slovakia - YouTube
Video Credit: SEER VIDEO - YouTube
Hayton is everything you want in an NHL prospect. He has all of the tools, the tool box, and even the tool shed, and he hasn’t hit 18 yet. I am not going to mince words here. More likely than not, Barrett Hayton is going to be an NHLer one day, and I don’t think his path to the NHL is going to be a very long one. In a sense, you could say that Hayton is a very safe pick, but that can be misleading to say, as it can connote that he doesn’t have the ceiling to be anything more than a bottom six forward. It is quite the opposite with Hayton, who I think has the skill, smarts, and attention to detail in how he approaches the game that he could become a fixture in the top six on an NHL team for years. Certainly, there are options that have higher offensive ceilings in this year’s draft, but prospects who are as balanced and complete as Hayton is, while still having high-end offensive skills, are very rare. If you are the Detroit Red Wings, and let’s say you’ve blown any chance of picking in the top 5 this June, Barrett Hayton should be one of the first players you take into consideration, as he fits everything that the Red Wings organization has tried to cultivate over the last several decades in terms of team identity.
Anyways, this concludes my profile of Barrett Hayton. When I return next, I will be discussing yet another player who has played themselves into top 10 contention this year, London Knights defenseman Evan Bouchard. In the meantime, happy scouting!