The Chicago Blackhawks continue developing young talent
The Chicago Blackhawks have a plethora of young talent in the system at the forward positions. That depth likely will be on full display this season as players like Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz will be making big impacts.
General manager Stan Bowman has made it clear the Blackhawks are focusing on building from within. One prospect that will take the direction the Blackhawks are heading and make the most of a chance to develop in the NCAA ranks is John Hayden.
The Blackhawks selected Hayden 74th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Since then he has attended his share of prospect camps and has taken the route less traveled by continuing in the NCAA hockey scene.
Hayden is set to returns to Yale for his senior year
While most prospects will choose to play in the Canadian Junior Hockey leagues or play for their country’s developmental programs, some choose to play at the NCAA ranks in the States and develop their skills against other top college prospects. For Hayden, it will be four years of play at Yale University before he makes the jump to the professional level.
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Hayden returns to Yale for his Senior season in 2016-17 and will look to lead the team on the ice and statsheet once again. Hayden will serve as Yale’s captain for the 2016-17 season after leading the team in goals with 16 in 2015-16, more than his sophomore and freshman seasons combined.
"“Honestly, this is probably the greatest honor so far of my career because my best friends and teammates at Yale, who know me as a player and as a person, have faith in my leadership.” – Hayden, New Haven Register 4/25/16"
Along with being named Captain for his senior season, Hayden was a top-10 scorer for Yale for all three of his previous seasons. In all, Hayden has skated in 94 games for the Bulldogs, tallying 57 points (29 goals, 28 assists) and has been named to the All-Ivy League team as a sophomore and junior.
Development in college a plus for Hayden
Before arriving at Yale, Hayden played for the U.S. Development program from 2011-13, winning a silver medal in the 2012 World Hockey Challenge (U-17) and another silver medal at the 2013 World Juniors (U-18).
All totaled, Hayden skated in 185 games for the USA in the Junior Development program and the National Junior teams and was given a leadership role with both the U-18 and U-20 World Junior teams.
Over the past three NCAA seasons, Hayden has continued to improve his skills and develop into a true power forward. Coming in at 6-foot-3, 233 pounds, he’s no stranger to playing a physical game.
Originally drafted by Chicago as a center, Hayden has transitioned to the right wing since playing with Yale and has the physical ability and willingness to play large to be a successful top-nine power winger in the NHL.
If stats are to be taken as a pure representation of skill, Hayden is a finisher. His 23 points (16 goals, 7 assists) last season at Yale is a major contributor to that notion. Around the net is where Hayden has and will most likely continue to make his mark in the scoring department.
His biggest weakness that will need to improve before making a successful jump to the professional level is his skating ability. Both his lateral mobility and foot speed need work in his senior year, which is expected of a player his size.
What is Hayden’s future projection?
While Hayden has yet to sign his entry-level deal, the Blackhawks are confident his returning to Yale was to finish what he and the university started in overcoming back-to-back overtime exits from the NCAA Tournament.
For Hayden to be a productive player at the NHL level, he will need to show the Blackhawks he can do more than play physically and hang around the net. His skating ability is what holds him back from being a top prospect, ready for the jump to the NHL or AHL already.
If Hayden can continue to show improvement in his senior year at Yale and handles another leadership role well, there is a lot of upside to his game and his value to the Blackhawks. With the organization starting to trend towards smaller forwards, Hayden could eventually be a big breath of fresh air for Chicago and play a third- or fourth-line physical forward role.