The Arizona Coyotes had a big decision to make tonight. Forward Barrett Hayton is in the first year of his entry-level contract, and with Thursday’s 3-2 loss Hayton has played 9 NHL games this season. If he plays one more game his contract won’t slide and the first year of his deal will be “burned”.
Originally drafted fifth overall by the Coyotes in the 2018 NHL Entry Level Draft, Hayton was billed as a skilled two-way center who was defensively responsible and could generate offense. Reviews of his selection were mixed at the time, but his play with this season, along with some other factors, have made the pick look better over the years.
In an article for The Athletic, Craig Morgan broke the team’s decision to have Barrett Hayton play his 10th game in the NHL. That’s not to say he is guaranteed to spend the rest of the season with the Coyotes, but with Brad Richardson still injured it makes sense to play him now, especially if he continues to improve.
Hayton has been inconsistent to start the season, but he has shown flashes of brilliance. He has a goal and 3 assists in his 9 games, and he frequently has spent time in the top six. Most young players take time to adjust to the NHL, and Hayton is no exception, but he seems to be doing well in his rookie season.
Even with Hayton sticking around in the NHL, it may be worth having him sit a few games. In the past two games, he has three penalties, penalties that may have changed the flow of the game. Against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday he had a season-low TOI (time on ice) with 7:24. This was a drop from his game against the Calgary Flames when he had 9:05.
The situation with Hayton is a frustrating one. His play so far in the NHL suggests that he is ahead of the competition he is going to get in juniors with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. And while he may be best served with some play in the AHL, he is ineligible to play in that league.
It is hard to argue that Hayton hasn’t earned his spot. He hasn’t shown the full extent of his offense and he has made a few poor decisions and taken some dumb penalties as of late, but he doesn’t seem too far over his head. The NHL may be the best place for him to develop him, both for him and for the Coyotes.