Last season saw the Arizona Coyotes bring Barrett Hayton into the NHL roster, but will he start the next campaign with the team after limited minutes in 2020?
Selected fifth overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2019 NHL Draft, Barrett Hayton is arguably the best prospect within the organization and he has the potential to become an integral part of the team.
He finally had the taste of NHL action during the COVID-shortened 2019/20 campaign but was limited to a bottom-line role across his 20 regular-season appearances before the summer post-season.
During those 20 games, Hayton averaged just 11:09 while on the ice and registered just a goal and three assists, positing poor possession numbers (46.8% Corsi Rating), despite starting in the offensive zone 59.4% of the time.
His face-off numbers were unsurprisingly poor, with just a 37.7% success rate against far more experienced opposition - highlighting the unique situation the young Canadian forward was in during the last campaign.
Hayton was easily too good for the OHL anymore, but he was ineligible to play for the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL - the most likely destination for him had the minor league’s rules allowed.
Sitting in the press box does little to progress a young prospect, even if he is practicing with quality teammates with an abundance of NHL experience, and next season will be extremely important for Hayton’s development.
Hayton played even less during the team’s post-season, averaging just over ten minutes a game in his three appearances for the Coyotes, which could hint at his future initially being with the Roadrunners when the 2021 AHL season officially begins.
Hayton was granted a five-game conditioning loan to the Roadrunners before the season’s shutdown earlier in the year, with the Coyotes prospect being a point-per-game player with a goal and four assists.
He has shown that he is more than ready for that level of competition, and he could find himself playing a top-line role for the Coyotes’ in-state affiliates - something that would likely help his development progress further than if he is sat on the sidelines watching the NHL team play.
The Peterborough, Ontario native is currently playing professionally in the Finnish SM-Liiga with Ilves, alongside fellow prospect Matias Maccelli, gaining himself valuable minutes and experience against professionals before he returns to North America when training camps open.
This could help him prepare for a season in the NHL, but the best option for Hayton could be to start the year in the AHL to get more seasoning, allowing him time to work on the areas of his game that the team needs him to improve before he makes the full-time jump to the NHL and hold down a regular spot in the line-up.
While it would be nice to see Hayton don the Coyotes jersey from the get-go next season, his long-term development may be better served in Tucson and the organization will have some tough decisions to make before training camp and the NHL’s desired January start.