There were a lot of questions surrounding the Arizona Coyotes going into the 2020-21 NHL season. One of the biggest was what is going to happen with 2018 first-round pick Barrett Hayton.
Like most young players, there is a lot of uncertainty around Hayton’s development. Before the season started, there were questions about what position he would play, what line would he be on, and where would he be playing.
Last season, Hayton was not AHL eligible, and the five games he spent with the Roadrunners were on a conditioning stint. But he was impressive in those five games, registering a goal and four assists in five games.
Through 14 games this season with the Coyotes, Hayton has 2 goals and a single assist. He has had a few good looks, a few solid games, but has occasionally made some defensive mistakes.
Hayton’s average TOI is 11:29, and he averages 16 shifts per game. A majority of his starts are in the offensive zone, suggesting the team is sheltering him while he adjusts to the NHL game.
If he were down in Tucson, he would be looking at more time on ice and more shifts. The team would also be able to play him more in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. Hayton has shown that he is a great two-way player in the past, and that is something the Coyotes desperately need moving forward.
Hayton has also not had a consistent line this season, and per having been a part of 56 even-strength line combinations*. Two of his top three line combinations have him playing with Clayton Keller or the pairing of Conor Garland and Nick Schmaltz, something that isn’t likely to happen again while the “Short Leash” Line is looking so good.
The line that Hayton has spent the most time with, 21.4% of his 5-on-5, is with Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard. The line was pretty quiet, registering no goals, allowing two, and sporting a 47.2 CF%.
Hayton has also been serving on the Coyotes’ second power play unit. Hayton has been on the ice for three power play goals but has no power play points this shift.
But recently, Hayton has been centering the fourth line with Christian Fischer and John Hayden. With Johan Larsson’s suspension ending, it is unknown if he will stay in the role or where he will go.
In Tucson, Hayton would get a chance to center the top Roadrunners line giving him consistent linemates. He would also probably get time on the first power play unit and an opportunity to be more involved in the play.
If Hayton were to go to Tucson, he would likely have more consistent linemates, and get better minutes.
Last season Hayton was too young to spend the full season in the AHL. That is an option this year and one that the Coyotes need to consider. Ultimately, this is a decision for the team to make, and they know Hayton's development better than anyone else.
Again, this doesn’t mean that Hayton is a bad player or playing below expectations. The team needs to think about the development of their players, and more ice time in Tucson should be beneficial for such a key piece of the Coyotes’ future like Hayton.