The Arizona Coyotes had the third-worst record going into the 2018 Lottery. Unfortunately, the Coyotes were unlucky again and dropped down to fifth overall. And with Brady Tkachuk off the table, the team selected center Barrett Hayton.
20/21 League: Liiga (Ilves)
Games played: 8
Highest rating: 2
Lowest rating: 5
The Arizona Coyotes selecting Barrett Hayton was a bit of a controversy at the time. Many people, both fans and pundits, expected the team to draft Filip Zadina who was also available at the time. The thought process was that Zadina would provide an immediate upgrade, and while Hayton still has yet to show his full potential, Zadina is also taking longer to develop.
This past year would prove to be a big one for Hayton. Rather than getting reassigned to the OHL and the Soo Greyhounds the team elected to keep him in Arizona. He played in some limited games, before heading to the World Juniors to Captain the Gold Medal winning squad.
Hayton's time at the World Juniors wasn't just glory in winning gold. He was called out early for not removing his helmet during Russia's national anthem after a loss, something he blamed on getting "lost in the moment" while apologizing. He also sustained a shoulder injury which almost sidelined him for Canada's final game, and would cause him to miss games while he recuperated.
After recovering from the shoulder injury Hayton was given the opportunity to spend five games with the Tucson Roadrunners on a conditioning stint. In five games he had a goal and four assists, more than he had in 20 games in the NHL.
When the Coyotes advanced to the postseason Hayton did get some limited ice time. He played in three, two against the Nashville Predators and one against the Colorado Avalanche. During the Nashville games he averaged under 10 minutes on ice, but against the Avalanche he played 14:54.
It seems to be universally agreed that Barrett Hayton was in a tough spot developmentally last season. He likely wouldn't have gained much with another season in the OHL, and he was prevented from going to the AHL. But he played well against the tough competition at the World Juniors and during his time in the AHL.
Under normal circumstances, Hayton would have probably started this season in the AHL. The AHL would give him space to adjust to the professional game until he was ready. But the shortened season still has a lot of questions, and the team may feel it is better to keep him with the main squad and try to give him limited minutes.
Barrett Hayton is still an excellent prospect for the Coyotes. His development has had some hiccups, but they are largely outside of his control. It may be another season or two, but fans should continue to watch Hayton's development with great interest.