The Arizona Coyotes have decided that Barrett Hayton isn’t ready for the NHL after all. The team has assigned the top prospect back to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, where he will continue his development as one of the most dynamic two-way centers in junior hockey.
Hayton was kept around a little longer than the preseason in order to give him a taste of NHL life, though he never actually entered a game for the Coyotes. The fifth-overall pick from June was something of a surprise selection, but the Coyotes and GM John Chayka have sung his praises since then. Underutilized last season in Sault Ste. Marie, Hayton should take on an even bigger role and show off why Arizona picked him so high. Even at just 18-years old he could join the Canadian World Junior team, especially if the management believes it would be their only chance at him before he heads to the NHL.
An excellent defensive center, Hayton has big offensive upside as well and should only add to the depth the Coyotes are trying to build down the middle. Though there is still some debate over whether Alex Galchenyuk can play the position full time, or whether Clayton Keller would be capable of a switch, the team already has several NHL-caliber options to grow the team around. Hayton should challenge that group next season, though there is no guarantee he even makes the club in 2019-20. If he doesn’t, the Greyhounds could be one of the best teams in the OHL for several years, and potentially compete for the Memorial Cup.