ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23. Barrett Hayton is the No. 9-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the 16th overall selection at the draft.
Barrett Hayton showcased his talents this past season on a stacked Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds club and played a key role in the team's success.
The then 17-year-old center began the year expecting to take a backseat to older players like Morgan Frost (the Philadelphia Flyers' 2017 first-round selection), four other forwards selected in the 2016 NHL Draft, and Hayden Verbeek, a three-year veteran of the Ontario Hockey League. Instead, Hayton established himself as a key piece at even strength, on the power play and penalty kill.
Hayton tallied 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists) in 63 regular season games and added 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 24 playoff games during the Greyhounds' trip to the OHL finals. He finished the main campaign tied for second on the club with eight man-advantage goals and ended with 21 power-play points overall.
He also showed his elite level in the classroom this past season, as he earned the OHL's Bobby Smith Trophy as the scholastic player of the year. He took advanced math and science courses and was able to maintain his grades while playing in 87 total contests (63 regular season and 24 playoff games) for Sault Ste. Marie. He also played an additional five games in August for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, and that is not to mention the countless hours of practice and training that are added to a major-junior hockey schedule.
On the ice or in the classroom, Hayton has been successful because he's put in the work, like many great players before him. NHL All-Stars Connor McDavid, Steven Stamkos, Matt Duchene and Dustin Brown are previous winners of the Bobby Smith Trophy.
"Known for his dedicated and disciplined personality, Barrett's academic work ethic is synonymous with his devotion to the game," said Greyhounds' General Manager Kyle Raftis in a release. "Barrett demonstrates that you can have tremendous success on the ice, and still maximize your academic potential."
Video: Barrett Hayton Scouting Report
His work ethic and subsequent understanding of the in-game situations has not gone unnoticed by those around him.
"He studies the game very well and does not focus only on his position, but also on that of his teammates," said Drew Bannister, Hayton's coach at Sault Ste. Marie last year, to NHL.com. "He understands that each player is a moving part. No matter if he is playing center or on the wing, he reads the game really well and is aware of everyone else's responsibilities."
And although he may not have accrued teammate Frost's unbelievable point total (112 regular season points last year), Hayton has found his niche on the Greyhounds as a player deserving ice time on the OHL's best team during the 2017-18 regular season. He helped lead Sault Ste. Marie to 116 points and 55 regular season wins, 12 more than the next best team.
"Wouldn't surprise me if Barrett puts up upward of 100 points (next season)," Bannister said. "From what I know of him and how much more he's going to get coming back and another year of development and a year older… I'm sure he's going to get close to 90-100 points."
Hayton led by example on a team full of OHL veterans and fellow NHL prospects and is now reaping the benefits as NHL Central Scouting's ninth-ranked North American skater for the upcoming NHL Draft.
Now he looks to step into the role of a veteran leader for the Greyhounds next year.
"My goal is to be the very best player I can be," Hayton said to NHL.com. "The role of being the guy relied on, that is something I strive to be in."