Barrett Hayton would fit in with the Flyers
With a day left before the 2018 NHL draft, the Flyers fan base is anxious about what’s to come over the weekend. With two first-round picks at 14 and 19, do they trade up or stay put? The Flyers draft plans remain unclear.
Some even believe it would be in the Flyers best interest to trade down and acquire more picks. However, if the Flyers stay at 14, center Barrett Hayton would make the perfect Flyers draft choice. The 18-year-old Sault Ste Marie Greyhound has an extremely wide skill set that would benefit the Flyers immensely.
Strength down the middle
Flyers GM Ron Hextall has been very vocal about centers being so important in the NHL. With two staples in the top six in Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick, the bottom six could use some work.
Scott Laughton has done a good job centering the fourth line, however, he becomes a restricted free agent after the 2018-19 season. Its impossible to tell what the future holds for Laughton.
The Flyers do have several prospects who play center in Morgan Frost, German Rubtsov, and Michael Vecchione, among others. But having serious depth at center is something most Cup-contending teams all possess, and that’s something they should look to replicate through the Flyers draft.
Hayton plays a style of hockey that impresses most scouts and coaches. He is a two-way center who plays much bigger than his size. Currently, at just 6’1 and 185 lbs, Hayton still manages to use his body to win puck battles.
The 2018 prospect has a major presence in front of the net and can push guys around who have some size on him. What really sticks out, is his ability to protect the puck when it’s on his stick. Some of the OHL’s greatest defenseman have been bested by Hayton on multiple occasions.
Flyers draft choice needs a versatile skill set
In addition to having such a strong net-front presence, Hayton can create offense in several other ways. The 6-foot-1 center’s ability to see whats going to happen before it happens is uncanny.
With such a high hockey IQ, he knows exactly when to drive to the net, screen the goalie or look for a deflection. When in the offensive zone, he has a knack for cycling the puck and keeping it in the zone, awaiting the right time to get the puck to the net. Also worth mentioning, the lefty has one heck of a wrist shot.
#OHL: C Barrett Hayton is having a really strong OHL Final. Here is snipes the go-ahead PPG late in the 2nd to give the Greyhounds a 3-2 lead in Game 6 over host Hamilton. Bulldogs clinch a Memorial Cup berth with a victory; head back to SSM for Game 7 if they lose. pic.twitter.com/gEBVLyW1Xo
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) May 13, 2018
Hayton’s stats show major improvement over the last two seasons. In the 2016-17 season, he totaled only nine goals and 27 overall points. This past season, in a bigger role, the center managed 21 goals and 60 points in 63 games played.
The Ontario spent most of the season behind Frost as a 2C, though he also played minutes as the first line left winger. The ability to play either position is something that Hextall values greatly. Hayton has drawn comparisons to the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron, which is quite the compliment, given his incredible skill.
Could he fall to the 14th pick?
Playing for the Greyhounds can be tough for scouts to gauge a players talent level. The entire team is stacked, so it could be easy for a mediocre player to have their stats polished by better players.
Especially playing on the second line, generally against opponent’s second lines. But the progression throughout his juniors career shows that he has what it takes to play in the pros. He may not be as flashy as Frost, but he rarely makes mistakes.
Hayton has many attributes that could help the Flyers in just a few years. He’ll still need some time to develop and build size, but most players out of this year’s draft will also. The 18-year-old is projected to get drafted sometime in the early teens, however, if he falls to the fourteenth pick, it would be an easy choice for Hextall.
Many things can affect the Flyers draft choices this weekend. Tune into the draft this Friday at 7:30 to see how the first round unfolds.
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Statistics from eliteprospects.com
Featured image credit to Steve Brandon via Flickr