The Battle of the Centres – Part Two (Barrett Hayton & Joe Veleno)

by Cam Robinson on June 1, 2018

 

In continuing my series of comparing draft-eligible players, today we finish up The Battle of the Centres. As mentioned last time, the 2018 crop is littered with high-end defensemen and impactful wingers. It is without question, lite on centres. I’ve targeted four pivots who could conceivably go in any order this June. Two from the Finnish Liiga and two from the CHL.

 

Part One looked at Rasmus Kupari and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. We now conclude the piece with an in-depth look at Barret Hayton and Joe Veleno.

 

 

Here’s another look at the numbers:

 

 

 Statistic

Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Liiga)

 

Rasmus Kupari  (Liiga)

 

Barret Hayton (OHL)

Joe Velano (QMJHL)

 

Birthdate

 

07-06-00

 

04-15-00

 

06-09-00

 

01-13-00

 

Height

 

6’2

 

5’11

 

6’1

 

6’1

 

Weight

 

190lbs

 

163lbs

 

185lbs

 

194lbs

 

Games Played

 

57

 

39

 

63

 

64

 

Time on Ice

 

15:35

 

12:05

 

12:45 (est)

 

13:31 (est)

 

Goals

 

10

 

6

 

21

 

22

 

Assists

 

19

 

8

 

39

 

57

 

P1/GP

 

N/A

 

N/A

 

0.7

 

0.84

 

Total Points

 

29

 

14

 

60

 

79

 

Points-per-game

 

0.51

 

0.36

 

0.95

 

1.23

 

Shots/GP

 

2.77

 

1.79

 

2.51

 

3.14

 

Shooting %

 

6.3%

 

8.6%

 

13.3%

 

10.9%

 

PPG

 

2

 

2

 

8

 

5

 

PPP

 

4

 

4

 

21

 

36

 

 

 

Breaking it down…

 

It’s difficult enough to compare players from separate CHL leagues. It’s even more challenging to add those playing in a European top league. But that’s what we’re here to do.

 

The Rankings presented are from my lists that have run from last August. The final ranking will be released on Thursday, June 14th.

 

 

 

Barrett Hayton

 

August 2017

October 2017

January 2018

March 2018

May 2018

        NR

           NR

           16th

         19th

        13th

 

Coming into his draft-eligible campaign, Hayton was considered a player to watch in the top 50. He was coming off a strong freshman season with the Soo and was looking to be elevated up the lineup.

 

Hayton got off to a nice start at the Hlinka where he was arguably the Canadian’s top forward, recording three goals and three helpers in five contests. He used that momentum when he went back to junior.

 

Early on, the 17-year-old centre, was tasked with playing the wing alongside the highly-talented, Morgan Frost. The two had strong chemistry and fed off one another. Hayton was looking to add speed and strength to his game while adding a more dynamic shot. To a certain degree, he succeeded in all three regards. He tacked on a full shot on net per contest while adding a new level of quickness and top-end speed. He still didn’t shoot the puck enough though. 

 

He witnessed his goal total jump from nine to 21 and ended up producing just shy of a point-per-game. Granted he was on a very strong Greyhounds’ squad that facilitated a lot of offense, but the way in which Hayton created was noteworthy. Tasked with heavy lifting in matchup situations, he eventually moved back into the middle and started a lot of shifts in the d-zone.

 

Here’s a look at his heat map from prospect-stats.com

 

 

While Hayton didn’t shoot the puck a great deal (just 2.5 per game), but he found a way to do the majority of his damage from the high-danger areas. He found a way into the net-front or the slot and converted. Those are effective spots for a player and suggest a translatable skill.

 

Hayton’s ability to play a sound game in all three zones is noteworthy. He’s quite capable with his stick in order to break up plays. And equally deft on the back-check to pick a pocket and quickly turn up ice. He has something of a Patrice Bergeron-flair to his game.

Another player he is often compared to is Bo Horvat.

 

Horvat suited up for the London Knights during his junior career and led the team to an OHL Championship as the draft-eligible player. He was named the OHL Playoff MVP after posting 16 goals and 23 points in 21 games. That followed a 61-point regular season campaign. Horvat landed at ninth overall to Vancouver after being ranked consistently in the 10-19 range.

 

Hayton may be a touch behind offensively than Horvat was at the same age, but their skillsets are similar. Horvat has elevated his game substantially with the addition of top-level speed – something Hayton could certainly use as well.

 

Hayton is a relentless forechecker. He uses that ability to force turnovers and engage quick-strike opportunities. He’s elusive in several ways: he uses shifting of speeds to create separation with defenders, and he offers quick hands and sharp directional turns to slip out of tight situations. He needs to shoot the puck more in order to keep teams guessing on his approach from shift-to-shift.

 

Report Card /10

 

Skating: 7.5

Passing: 8

Shot: 7

Hands: 8

IQ: 8.5

Defense: 8.5

NHL ETA: 2-3 years

 

 

 

Veleno

 

August 2017

October 2017

January 2018

March 2018

May 2018

            3rd

            9th

           18th

         12th

        14th

 

Veleno is an interesting cat. The only QMJHL player to be granted exceptional status back in 2015. It was reported that Veleno dangled the NCAA stick in front of Q executives in order to facilitate the early promotion. Not wishing to miss on a potential superstar, the league succumbed and allowed it.

 

The Montreal-native performed admirably as a 15/16-year-old, producing 43 points in 62 games for St John. He followed that up with a near point-per-game as a 16/17-year-old.

 

Entering into his draft-eligible campaign, the expectations were high. A successful Hlinka tournament where he showcased his great north-south speed, defensive responsibility and distribution skills had his year moving in the right direction. However, he found himself on a middling Sea Dogs team and came out of the gate with some plateaued results. Six goals and 31 points in 31 contests had him falling down draft boards.

 

A trade to Drummondville mid-season was the turning point for his season. He went on a tear for the Voltiguers and finished hisyear with 79 points in 64 contests. However, his showing at the U18 Worlds in April was mediocre at best.

 

Veleno is a speed-driven player. His game thrives when he’s skating miles a night. He has the ability to grab the puck down low off a board outlet and fly through the neutral zone to force defenders to lose their gap. This allows his team to gain entry into the zone and begin to set up.

 

Outside of his elite skating, Veleno’s next best asset is his power play distribution. He was arguably the best power play set up man in the Quebec league this season as evidenced by his 31 assists on the man-advantage – tops in the league.

 

 

While Veleno is not known for having a very strong shot, he did use it frequently this season (3.14 per game). Interesting to note is that 18 of his 22 goals were scored from low-danger scoring areas. That doesn’t bode well for transference to the NHL-level. Those look great on the highlight pack, but the QMJHL averaged save percentage was 0.898 percent this year. It’s unlikely he maintains such a trait moving up.

 

Veleno’s skating will afford him plenty of opportunities. It will facilitate his transition to the pros more easily. Allow him to start in a bottom of the roster role and still contribute on special teams. It will garner him a handful more breakaways that another guy might get. Yet, his high-end offensive ceiling appears to be the most modest of this group. 

 

Report Card /10

 

Skating: 9

Passing: 8

Shot: 7

Hands: 7.5

IQ: 7

Defense: 8

NHL ETA: 2-3 years

 

 

**

 

Final Tally

 

 

Skill

Kotkaniemi

Kupari

Hayton

Veleno

 

Skating

 

7.5

8.5

7.5

9

 

Passing

 

8.5

8.5

8

8

 

Shot

 

8

7.5

7

7

 

Hands

 

8.5

8.5

8

7.5

 

IQ

 

8.5

8

8.5

7

 

Defense

 

8

8.5

8.5

8

 

NHL ETA

 

1-2 years

2-3 years

2-3 years

2-3 years

 

Conclusion

I’m still not convinced that these articles are doing me any favours as I attempt to nail down my final rankings. However, I hope they at least provide some insight to you, the reader. 

 

At the end of the day, the player who has seen his stock the rise the most is the winner here today. Kotkaniemi has been finding himself as the top pivot on many boards this spring and is a good bet to be the first to hear his named called in Dallas this month. He provides a full tool belt. While his skating remains a work in progress, it’s not a hindrance at this point and likely only keeps getting better. 

Deciding who to go with second is the real question. Hayton brings that intense two-way game and nice distribution skills. He provides a projectable frame and attributes that coaches love to employ. Kupari presents a player with sublime puck skills, great vision, and a deft two-way game despite being shy on the scale. His absolute upside likely provides more offensive punch than Hayton but likely a lower realistic outcome. 

 

Veleno seems in a fight with himself for fourth. He doesn’t offer a ton of creativity or high-end processing skills. While his powerplay production is nice, it’s not worlds better than any of the other three. He likely projects as middle six player who can contribute on special teams. And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

 

**

Earlier in the series

Oliver Wahlstrom vs Brady Tkachuk

Quinn Hughes vs Adam Boqvist

Noah Dobson vs Evan Bouchard vs Ty Smith

 

**

Thanks for reading. Feel free to follow me on twitter at CrazyJoeDavola3