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Hayton 'checked all the boxes' for Coyotes

Center prospect will work to improve pace, strength in third OHL season

by Craig Morgan / Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Barrett Hayton wasn't a top-10 player in most analysts' prospect rankings. He turned 18 two weeks before the 2018 NHL Draft, and was sixth in scoring for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League last season, with 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists) in 63 games.

The Arizona Coyotes believe at least three teams (the Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks) selecting in the top 10 had the center prospect ranked higher. So did Arizona, which chose him with the No. 5 pick.

"Everyone wants that one thing that kind of jumps off the page at you and it's easy to see and grab onto," Coyotes general manager John Chayka said. "What makes [Hayton] special is that he's really good at everything, being that play-making center through the middle of the ice that is a dedicated 200-foot guy.

"Whether it's his athleticism, whether it's his underlying data, whether it's our in-person views, whether it's our video views, across the board he just checked all the boxes, so there was really no reason not to take him."

Hayton signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Coyotes on June 6. He participated in development camp the week after the draft, and he will participate in his first NHL training camp in September. Barring unforeseen circumstances on a team that has at least six center options on its roster, Hayton will spend 2018-19 with Sault Ste. Marie to develop other areas of his game.

Video: Coyotes Draft F Barrett Hayton No. 5

"I feel just getting more explosive," he said when asked what he feels he needs to improve on to reach the NHL. "Also, with the way the game's being played, playing with higher pace. You see the NHL style now and especially in the playoffs, the pace is so high, so it's just training my mind to just constantly play at that high pace."

Coyotes forward prospect development coach Mark Bell, who watched all six games of the OHL championship series between Sault Ste. Marie and eventual champion Hamilton, identified another area for Hayton to focus on.

"The challenge for him, like most kids is strength," Bell said. "He's strong on the puck but there's a lot of battles I saw him lose in the Hamilton series, and I think a lot of that had to do with fatigue. He played some heavy minutes, but what he does well is supporting the puck all over the ice, to competing, to scoring, He brings it all."

The Coyotes believe Hayton will produce more points with more opportunity. Former Sault Ste. Marie coach Drew Bannister, hired by the St. Louis Blues in June to coach San Antonio of the American Hockey League, thinks Hayton could take a step forward similar to that of Sault Ste. Marie center Morgan Frost, selected by the Philadelphia Flyers with the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Frost had 112 points (42 goals, 70 assists) in 67 games last season after having 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) in 67 games in 2016-17.

"[Hayton] played behind some highly skilled players that were a little bit older, so he had to fight to find his ice time," Bannister said. "This year you're going to see a little more of the upside of his offense. Barrett has the potential to scratch 90 or 100 points."

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