Should Coyotes Fans be Worried about Barrett Hayton?
Canada’s captain Barrett Hayton celebrates after defeating Russia 4-3 in the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Fifth overall pick Barrett Hayton is off to a slow start to his young career. The Peterborough native has amassed just seven points in 34 games so far with the Coyotes, and as a result, is now in the minors with the Tucson Roadrunners.
Red Wings F Filip Zadina, Canucks D Quinn Hughes, and Blackhawks D Adam Boqvist, the next three players selected after Hayton, have all established themselves as regular NHL contributors. Hayton has not. His name has also been involved in trade rumours as of late.
Do Coyotes fans have a reason to be concerned here? Should the Yotes move on from the 20-year-old forward who was a star for Canada just last year at the World Juniors? I dove into Hayton’s game tape to answer those complex questions.
I’ve seen a fair amount of Hayton tape over the last few seasons. I watched the centre and his team lose in to the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL finals in 2018/19 when I was working for Hamilton. I’ve seen him quite a bit over years, in the OHL and at international tournaments.
The centre always stood out to me with his slick puck handling skills, deceptive playmaking, hockey sense (particularly away from the puck), and laser-beam of a wrist shot.
When I watched his NHL game tape from this season, he looked almost nothing like that player outside of the odd flash that reminded me of who exactly I was watching.
Hayton did show his intelligence away from the puck on a number of occasions, particularly offensively. He often offered strong puck support for his teammates and found ways to get open in scoring areas. This aspect of his game, coupled with his dangerous shot complimented each other well on his first goal of the season:
That’s really where the positives ended for me, though. I came away with two main concerns with the forward’s game – both of which are fixable, but one that will take a bit more time.
As previously mentioned, a lot of the reason why I liked Hayton in junior was his slick puckhandling and playmaking ability. His package of skill and deception made him a great carrier at the OHL level.
This hasn’t translated to the NHL, but it easily could in the right environment. In the three games that I tracked, Hayton had a total of 2 controlled entries. He dumped the puck in 6 times.
I’m not sure if Hayton was told to dump the puck in by his coach, or if he is just trying to avoid directly turning the puck over to the opposition, but the bottom line is he was not carrying pucks in.
Hayton is capable of carrying the puck in a lot more often – he’s done it in the past, and he has the skillset to be an entry threat. Carrying the puck in more often will give him more opportunities to use his linemates, showcasing his playmaking, and it will also help him establish sustain pressure in the offensive end more often.
Something a lot of Hayton’s nay-sayers commonly criticize is his “pace” – meaning how fast Hayton plays the game. This is, in part, due to Hayton’s sub-optimal skating stride.
Hayton has quite a few issues with his skating posture and his overall stride mechanics. Here’s a quick clip of it to reference:
As far as his posture goes, Hayton has decent ankle flexion -his knee is slightly over his toe – but he bends his hips forwards instead of “sitting back” into his stride. As a result of all of this, Hayton has his weight on the front of his skates, reducing how much pressure he can apply on each stride.
His upper-body posture is out of whack, too. Hayton swings his left arm correctly but doesn’t use his right arm to generate power at all.
To top it all off, Hayton lands on his inside edge as opposed to on his outside edge – similar to what Alex Galchenyuk was doing before the Leafs worked with him. This keeps his toes pointed in opposite directions and not in the direction of travel.
As a result, Hayton’s stride is short and does not produce enough power. As previously mentioned Hayton is dumping the puck in a lot. Oftentimes, he will dump the puck in and because he lacks speed, he’s unable to put adequate pressure on opposing defenders. This makes for an easy exit for the other team.
Overall, I think this is a player that has a lot of potential. It’s going to be tough to completely revamp his stride, but it can definitely get better with time and proper guidance. I think it’s probable that it improves at least to a point where it will no longer be a weakness.
If put in an environment where the forward can optimize his skills; one that allows him to carry the puck and make plays, I think there’s a top-six centre here.
If Hayton truly is available for trade, a building team should definitely kick tires on him.
You can follow Josh Simpson on Twitter at @JoshSimpson77 for more hockey and prospect discussion and make sure you check out his substack as well!