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Arizona Coyotes select center Barrett Hayton fifth overall in NHL Draft

Barrett Hayton, fifth from right, of Canada, poses after being selected by the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL hockey draft in Dallas, Friday, June 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The Arizona Coyotes added a prospect widely considered to be one of the best centers available in the NHL Draft by selecting Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward Barrett Hayton.

With the fifth overall pick, the Coyotes took Hayton, a left-handed-shooting 18-year-old from Kitchener, Ontario. In his second season in the Ontario Hockey League last year, Hayton scored 21 goals with 39 assists in 63 games. He also had 8-13-21 in 24 games in the postseason. He’s been described as a two-way forward with comparisons to Boston top-line center Patrice Bergeron.

“I feel I have the ability to play in all situations and make an impact, and that’s a big part of my game,” he told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station‘s Burns and Gambo. “After the combine, having interviews and such, you get certain feels from teams. I’m just extremely proud that I was able to be selected by Arizona.”

He was the No. 9 North American skater as ranked by NHL Central Scouting.

“His hockey IQ is quite impressive,” Corey Pronman of The Athletic wrote. “Hayton has the reliable defensive forward sense and work ethic off the puck where he makes good defensive plays and wins pucks, but he has great vision and composure with the puck as well.”

One criticism of Hayton has been his explosiveness on first step as a skater.

“I’m just continuing to get more explosive, that’s a big thing for me,” Hayton said. “Playing with that higher pace. You see the way the NHL is going to now, especially in the playoffs, the pace is extremely high. Just working on those aspects.”

Hayton played for a Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds team that had plenty of other top talent, and thus, the center finished just sixth on his team in scoring behind former NHL draft picks like Morgan Frost, Taylor Raddysh and Tim Gettinger. Still, he was the top-ranked center in North America on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings before falling to second-best center and ninth prospect overall in the final North American ranking.

ArizonaSports.com’s prediction tracker NHL Draft saw prognosticators rank Hayton anywhere from 23rd to 11th. The Coyotes elected to go with a centerman with their fifth overall selection, despite highly-projected goal-scorer Filip Zadina still being available when Arizona went on the clock.

This fifth overall pick is the sixth first-round pick the Coyotes have made in the last four drafts. Among those six selections, Hayton marks the fourth forward Arizona has selected.  This is also the fourth time in the last six drafts that the Coyotes have taken a player from the OHL with a first-round pick. Arizona drafted three players from the OHL last year, taking MacKenzie Entwistle, Nate Schnarr and Noel Hoefenmayer, though none of them were first-rounders.

Other notable fifth overall picks in NHL history include Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, longtime forward Jaromir Jagr, Penguins forward Phil Kessel and brothers Luke and Brayden Schenn.

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