Anyone who followed the 2018 OHL Playoffs became increasingly familiar with a 17-year-old centreman who continually proved to be up to whatever task then-Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds head coach Drew Bannister threw at him.
After playing a big part in steering the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to their best season in a decorated franchise history, Barrett Hayton took on the big boys come playoff time, lining up across from the likes of Owen Sound’s Nick Suzuki, Kitchener’s Logan Brown and Hamilton’s Robert Thomas in the post-season as the Hounds came within two victories of an OHL Championship.
If his 21 points in 24 playoff games wasn’t impressive enough, the Peterborough native earned Bobby Smith Trophy honours as the OHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year after maintaining an 87% average in University level Math, Data Management, Biology, Chemistry, English and Recreation courses at Superior Heights Secondary School.
The Arizona Coyotes took notice of these impressive accomplishments, selecting Hayton as the second OHL player chosen in the NHL Draft at fifth overall this past June.
“It’s been a whirlwind, a really busy summer,” said Hayton having recently attended Hockey Canada’s World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, BC. “Between this camp, the combine, draft and Coyotes Development Camp there hasn’t been a lot of down time.
“It’s been nice to get home for a bit and get back into a steady routine at the gym as I prepare for another season.”
The son of an ex-OHLer and former Kitchener Rangers bench boss in Brian Hayton who now serves as a teacher at Norwood District High School, the younger Hayton says a commitment to education has been a part of home life since the beginning. He and his older sister have always been encouraged to pour their time and effort into their studies.
“Growing up it was always just expected that we’d give school our very best effort,” he described. “That really applies to whatever you put your mind to whether it’s sports or academics.”
Excelling in the classroom is no small accomplishment for Hayton, who plays on a Greyhounds club that spends a lot of time on the road, travelling down from the far reaches of the north for weekend trips throughout the season.
“You learn a lot about time management and just staying on top of everything you’re responsible for from games to practices and all the time on the bus. You have to make the most of your time while you have it.”
While he was recognized for his academic excellence this past season, Greyhounds GM Kyle Raftis came away impressed with Hayton as a 16-year-old rookie in 2016-17, noting his advanced maturity and ability to focus on a wide range of tasks.
“Barrett is one of those guys that, when you talk to him about his summer, he can tell you exactly how it’s going to break out in segments in terms of what he wants to be working on and he’s the same way with his schooling in how he allocates his time. He’s a naturally smart young man who demonstrated even in his rookie season that he was up to the task of moving away from home, settling into a new school and making that transition without skipping a beat.”
Hayton will be off to Coyotes Training Camp this fall but will most likely return to Sault Ste. Marie for his third OHL season where he’ll suit up under new head coach John Dean.
With the probable graduation of veterans Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Tim Gettinger and Jack Kopacka along with departed overager Hayden Verbeek, Hayton has plenty of minutes in front of him in all situations as the Hounds look to continue their run of consistency in the Western Conference.
Over 20 days in August ontariohockeyleague.com will shine a summer spotlight on storylines from all 20 OHL clubs. See more from the OHL 20 in 20 series.