The 2018 offseason was a big one for the Arizona Coyotes and John Chayka. The Coyotes General Manager didn’t waste much time before making big moves, and one of those moves was going off script and drafting Barrett Hayton. With the draft coming up again, it’s time to look back at that decision and see if things look different a year later.
Filip Zadina vs Barrett Hayton
The Coyotes had the fifth overall pick and they seemed to have get very lucky when Filip Zadina fell into their laps. Zadina was listed by many analysts to be one of the best goal scorers in the draft class, and for a team that struggles to score, he seemed like a perfect match. But when the Coyotes were on the clock, GM Chayka would instead select center Barrett Hayton.
At the time, the move was fairly divisive. Hayton was considered to be a good prospect, but not anywhere near as skillful as Zadina. Some would even draw comparisons to the Coyotes’ decision to draft Dylan Strome over wing Mitch Marner a few years ago.
Despite being touted as a player who would be able to see NHL ice immediately, Filip Zadina was initially assigned to the AHL. Part of that may have been the Detroit Red Wings wanting to shield him from a tough season and avoid burning a year of his entry level contract.
Considering the Red Wings finished the season with 74 points, it was probably for the best they didn’t waste a year of his ELC. Zadina would see some NHL ice, but Detroit limited him to nine games — where he would finish with a goal and two assists and was -5.
Zadina hasn’t exactly excelled in the AHL, either. In 59 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins he recorded 16 goals and 19 assists and finished a -17. Among the Griffins, he was ranked sixth in both points and goals. During the AHL playoffs, Zadina would record two goals and an assist in five games before the Griffins were eliminated by the Chicago Wolves.
While Zadina can still be a productive NHL player, his first season didn’t play out as expected. It seems likely that Zadina is going to take longer to develop than initially thought, even if that means he spends a few more years in the AHL.
Although he started the season with the Coyotes, Barrett Hayton would eventually be reassigned to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. This wasn’t too surprising as most people expected Hayton to need a few more seasons developing. In 39 regular season games he recorded 26 goals and 40 assists while finishing third in the OHL in points per games with 1.69.
Hayton’s Greyhounds didn’t do too much better in the playoffs. The Greyhounds beat the Owen Sound Attack in five games in the first round, but were eliminated by the Saginaw Spirit in six games in the second round. Hayton would appear in 11 games and have a record of 6-10-16, finishing 19th overall in OHL playoff points.
The critics seem to have turned around on Hayton, too. In his midseason prospect ranking, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman listed Hayton at 5th — as opposed to his No. 41 ranking before the season. Back in January, Craig Morgan wrote that “Barrett Hayton’s offensive game has reached elite status”. And after Hayton returned from an injury, Peter Ruicci of the Sault Star wrote a column simply titled “Boy, have Hounds missed Hayton”.
So does all of this mean that the Coyotes made the right decision in drafting Hayton over Zadina? It is still way too early to tell. Zadina is still ranked highly, with Corey Pronman ranking him 11th in a list of the top 31 prospects of the past five years. But the idea that Zadina could have provided an immediate upgrade to the Coyotes was definitely overly optimistic.
Soon after the draft, it was revealed that Hayton almost went higher in the draft. It’s now clear other General Managers valued him more then the scouts. And while the Coyotes have recently been linked with high profile pending free agents like Matt Duchene, Hayton still seems to be very much in the Coyotes’ plans moving forward.