After scoring a goal in the World Junior gold medal game with an injured shoulder, Barrett Hayton returned to the Arizona Coyotes in early January. Labeled back then as week-to-week as he recovered, the young forward will now head to the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners for a conditioning stint. That move indicates that Hayton is close to returning, though how the Coyotes will use him is still unclear.
Interestingly, Hayton is actually too young to stay with Tucson beyond the conditioning loan. Still just 19, once healthy he has to stay with the Coyotes or be returned to his junior team. Returning to junior doesn’t make much sense at this point after the first year of his entry-level contract was already burned, but the top prospect was also not playing regularly for Arizona before leaving for the international tournament in the first place.
In 14 games this season with Arizona, Hayton has one goal and four points. He tripled that total in seven games at the WJC, as he captained Team Canada to gold. The fifth-overall pick from 2018, Hayton can do a little bit of everything on the ice and projects to be a star option down the middle for the Coyotes in the future. This short stint with the Roadrunners may prove to be his only time in the minor leagues.
The Coyotes should try to trade Hall, Kessel, OEL, Raanta and Stepen for young talent and picks. And then let Hayton play full time on the top line to get him developing. They aren’t making the playoffs this year so why waste time where he could be learning.