Over the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how they would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.
The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.
Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.
Team: Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Hayton doesn’t carry high-end potential but is a safe bet to be an effective NHL player. Though, it’s hard to get a read on exactly how strong of a prospect Hayton is because of his junior situation. The centerman plays on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who had a 23-game winning streak this season, and one has to wonder if his numbers were inflated as a result.
The Kitchener, Ontario, native turns 18 Saturday and put up strong totals in his draft year. He finished below a point-per-game clip but not by much. Hayton scored 21 goals and 60 points in 63 games with the Greyhounds and added 21 points in 24 playoff games. It was a big jump from his 16-year-old season in 2016-17, when he produced a respectable 27 points in 63 games.
There is plenty to like about the 6-foot-1 center’s game. He has good puck skills and knows how to use his body in puck battles and to protect the puck in the offensive zone. An intelligent player with a strong wrist shot. His skating is an area he’ll need to improve upon, though.
Fit with Flyers
With two first-round picks, the Flyers have options in this year’s draft. They could use the ammo to trade up or use one of the picks to acquire a proven commodity. Like Team USA U-18’s Joel Farabee, Hayton has been a favorite to be selected by the Flyers in mock drafts.
Hayton fits the mold of a Ron Hextall pick as he has a high hockey IQ and plays well in all three zones. The Flyers build through the middle and as a center, Hayton would fit. The Flyers operate by best player available and with two picks, they figure to draft at least one forward. If this was last year, an argument could be made for two forwards, but the Flyers could use another potential impact defenseman in their farm system. Hextall and the Flyers’ scouts should be familiar with Hayton, a teammate of 2017 first-round pick Morgan Frost in Sault Ste. Marie.
On the surface, Hayton seems like a strong possibility if he’s available at No. 14. He might not project to be a star, but he does figure to be a solid middle-sixer. That could mix well with how the Flyers’ future unfolds.