Arizona Coyotes Face Big Decision With Barrett Hayton

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 10: Barrett Hayton #29of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with teammates on the bench after getting his first NHL point against the Vegas Golden Knights at Gila River Arena on October 10, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. Hayton was playing in his first career NHL game. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 10: Barrett Hayton #29of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with teammates on the bench after getting his first NHL point against the Vegas Golden Knights at Gila River Arena on October 10, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. Hayton was playing in his first career NHL game. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Arizona Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton has played in six NHL games so far this season following Arizona’s 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night. The Coyotes must decide soon where Hayton will play the rest of this season.

As a 19-year-old, Barrett Hayton is not eligible to play for the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL. The current agreement between the NHL and CHL does not allow clubs to send CHL-drafted players to the AHL if they are under the age of 20. That means that if Hayton is to be “sent down,” he would end up back in the CHL with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for a fourth season.

So far this season, Hayton has been Arizona’s extra forward. However, with the current injury to Brad Richardson, Hayton has now played in six games. Once Hayton plays in more than nine games, the Coyotes will lose a year from his entry-level contract. The Coyotes also expect Richardson to return to the lineup within days, which means Hayton may watch more games from the press box soon.

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The issue is Hayton’s development. Drafted fifth overall in 2018, the Coyotes probably don’t want him to spend most of the season as a healthy scratch, but it’s not clear he would be able to learn anything more in the CHL. Eventually, Arizona is looking for him to become an impact player. “It’s hard for us to imagine right now what he would gain going back to juniors and that’s why we are where we are,” Coyotes Assistant General Manager Steve Sullivan recently said. Sullivan has also hinted that Hayton could be loaned to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior’s tournament in the Czech Republic.

Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche, Hayton played most of the game with Phil Kessel and Christian Dvorak providing a key assist on Kessel’s goal. After the game, Head Coach Rick Tocchet was singing his praises.

Whatever the Coyotes decide to do, we will likely find out within the next week or two. Hayton is definitely playing well enough for the NHL, but will the team waste a whole year of his entry-level contract just for Hayton to be the extra forward, or will they ensure he gets plenty of playing time at another level?