The list of better two-way centres than Barret Hayton in this year’s draft is a short one. Our consensus rankings at CanucksArmy reflect that, with Hayton checking in as the 17th ranked prospect in this year’s draft.
Playing on a stacked team in one’s first year of draft eligibility can prove a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’re playing with better talent than most of your peers; on the other, it can force high-end players into a tertiary role. It’s easy to see Hayton suffered the latter playing on the powerhouse Sault Ste Marie Greyhound this season.
In our profile of Hayton, we’ll flesh out the ways in which that manifest itself in his production and then examine the physical tools that make us confident that he’ll prove his mettle in time. Hayton could be one of the premier sleepers in the first round of this year’s draft.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.27 / June 9, 2000
- Birthplace: Peterborough, ON, CAN
- Frame: 6-foot-1 / 185 lbs
- Position: Centre
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
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Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
I’m not a big fan of player comparisons, especially as it concerns draft prospects. There’s one that comes to mind when analyzing Hayton of which I can’t help but take heed.
Last year, Greyhounds forward Morgan Frost was considered a late first-round to early second-round prospect (the Flyers took him 27th overall) due to good if unspectacular scoring numbers. There were some, like CanucksArmy’s Ryan Biech, who noticed that his points per hour suggested he had a lot more to give than his counting stats suggested at the time. In a bigger role this season, Frost’s offensive totals exploded with a 50-point increase over last season for an eye-popping 112 points in 67 games.
Hayton generated points at a better rate this season than Frost last year on a per game basis playing an estimated two fewer minutes at 5-on-5 according to www.prospect-stats.com. He seems primed to explode next season as more of his Greyhound teammates graduate to the professional ranks, freeing up valuable ice time for Hayton to light up the scoresheet.
Those qualifiers aside, Hayton’s season is still impressive in its own right. Playing primarily in a defensive role, Hayton scored at almost a point per game clip, with 60 points in 63 games. When one adjusts for ice-time with prospect-stats, though, it estimates that Hayton contributed the 13th most points per hour at 5-on-5 with 1.93 markers.
Using the SEAL (Situational Era Age League) adjustments formatted by CanucksArmy’s Jeremy Davis, Hayton’s production is shone in a far more favourable light. Hayton produced 1.28 points per game using the SEAL adjustments, good for the 20th highest mark among first-time draft-eligible prospects.
When we use the pGPS (prospect graduation probabilities system), also developed by Davis, Hayton’s season doesn’t look any less impressive. About 36% of the players who share a similar statistical and stature based profile to Hayton developed into full-time NHL’ers. Based on Hayton’s cohort, pGPS projects him to produce about 39 points per 82 games. These marks are all comfortably in first-round territory. Of the members of his pGPS cohort, Claude Loiselle, Devante Smith-Pelly and Boone Jenner stick out as some of the closest statistically comparable players.
You can NOT go any more cheddar than BARRETT HAYTON! pic.twitter.com/gmtlgQrj4R
— xyz Soo Greyhounds (@OHLHoundPower) January 14, 2018
What makes Hayton so effective at both ends of the ice is his ability to read the play two or three steps ahead of it. He has excellent anticipation, which allows him to get to the right places more often than not in spite of his average skating.
Similarly, Hayton’s relentless work ethic and dogged competitiveness in puck battles can make him a force from below the hashmarks. Despite hit unremarkable 6-foot-1 frame, Hayton holds his own on contested pucks.
The lack of explosiveness in Hayton’s stride has the potential to limit his offensive ceiling. There are some, like Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat, who can overcome this deficiency; then there are others like Brendan Gaunce who seemingly can’t. It will be interesting to see which course Hayton charters, though I lean far more towards the former of those two players with my projection.
To Hayton’s credit, his skating steadily improved through the course of the season. Right now, it really is as simple as improving on his two-step quickness. When Hayton picks up steam, he’s a fine skater; his edges, balance and strength aren’t an issue in the slightest.
That’s about the only part of Hayton’s game that’s to his detriment. His shot is high-end, though one might quibble with how regularly he uses it — that’s splitting hairs, really. Hayton is a good distributor who always makes good use of his linemates.
There tends to be a perception of Hayton as someone with a limited offensive upside, but as I’ve pointed out in this article, there’s ample reason to believe he can be a solid contributor at the NHL level. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Hayton to develop into a strong second-line centre professionally who can play in all phases of the game.
If you can find a player of that calibre in the teens of any draft, it’s a winning situation. I’d probably have Hayton a little closer to the consensus ranking of 12 than the 17 we have him listed at, but I also find it perfectly reasonable to have him in this spot — the two ideas are totally compatable!
Whoever takes Hayton is going to find a great two-way prospect with the ability to have an impact at both ends of the ice in short order.
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Slick, two-way center who can beat you in a variety of ways. Whether you view Hayton as the beneficiary of a deep supporting cast, or a key cog in Sault Ste Marie’s attack, the truth is he very much is a very skilled, heady player. He has excellent vision and makes most defenders miss when he’s controlling the puck below the circles.
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. Hayton is both shifty and crafty with the puck, plus he’s capable of making high-percentage plays on his backhand. He knows how to finish around the goal, but he’s also shown to favor his lethal wrist shot from anywhere near the circles. Again, this kid is very hard to prepare for — both before a game and right when he hops over the boards. He can be a relentless forechecker, especially on the penalty kill, and he will use his body effectively to protect the puck. He has top-line upside and should be expected to dominate the OHL next season when his role is expanded.
CanucksArmy’s 2018 NHL Draft Rankings