There will be prospects with more flash and dash on the board when the Edmonton Oilers pick 10th overall at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in Dallas. If sick offensive skills and numbers are your thing, Barrett Hayton isn’t an obvious choice. What Hayton looks like, however, is the kind of smart, two-way centre who will play in the NHL for a long time. He’s the proverbial sure thing, or as close as it gets when you’re talking about projecting teenagers.
Hayton, a six-foot-one, 190-pound centre with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, doesn’t have blazing speed and he didn’t put up the kind of eye-popping numbers some of the prospects ranked around him did. He’s not the finisher Oliver Wahlstrom is and he doesn’t have the blend of size, nastiness and skill that will make Brady Tkachuk a going concern on draft day. While there’s not a lot of sizzle to Hayton right now, observers will tell you there is plenty of substance and hockey IQ here.
I’m not big on comparisons to established players because kids at this age have a lot of developing to do, but when somebody like Craig Button of TSN says Hayton reminds him of Patrice Bergeron in terms of being a well-rounded player, that gets my attention. I’m guessing the Oilers would settle for that, or anything close to it, all day long. I’m thinking Hayton might still be on the board when the Oilers pick. What I don’t know is what they think of him, where he sits on their list.
Here’s where some people have Hayton ranked:
International Scouting Services (ISS): 12th
Craig Button of TSN: 7th
Central Scouting: 9th among NA skaters
McKeen’s Hockey: 13th
Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet: 10th
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News: 12th
I get it that tagging a prospect as a solid, two-way player isn’t as scintillating as saying a player could be the next big thing. Nobody is making big thing talk about Hayton, although the reference to Bergeron, a guy who wins the Selke Trophy and can get you 60 points, is high praise. Guys like Bergeron, or close to him, don’t grow on trees. Here’s some video on Hayton. More on the native of Kitchener here. Hayton was a pass-first, shoot-second guy with the Soo this season. One of the things that catches my eye is Hayton was very good in games that mattered most – he scored 8-13-21 in 24 playoff games with the Greyhounds.
Here’s what people are saying about Hayton
- “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.” – Button, TSN
- “Hayton knows where to locate linemates as a natural playmaking center. He has great hockey sense, can play the power play or penalty kill and is projected to transition into a solid two-way NHL center.” — Mike Morreale, NHL.com
- “Hayton is a heady two-way center that drives opponents batty with his rapid directional changes and ability to thread the needle with his passes. His straight-line speed probably is the one thing preventing him from being talked about as a lock for the top five, but Hayton checks every other block.” — Steve Kournianos, Sporting News
MOVING ON UP
Hayton has steadily moved up the draft rankings in 2018. As a matter of personal preference, I’ll take a riser like him all day long over a prospect who drops off late in a draft year. That aside, it’s not just Button making Bergeron comparisons. “(Bergeron) is a player whose example I try to follow and use to create some improvements in my game,” Hayton said. “I would describe myself as a complete 200-foot player with offensive abilities. I like making plays and I use my intelligence and skills with the puck to create opportunities.”
The common thread when hockey people talk about Hayton’s game, aside from his ability to play on both sides of the puck, is his hockey sense. That’s an attribute that can never be overstated and it’s something assistant GM Keith Gretzky puts a lot of stock in. While I can’t see the Oilers taking Hayton if any one of Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson or Wahlstrom are available, I wonder if he becomes an option if all of them are gone. I think he does.
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