At the very end of the 2016-17 regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks called up former Yale captain and 2013 third-round draft pick John Hayden. Now, Hayden is proving he’s worthy of a roster spot in 2017-18.
Remember when John Hayden came onto the scene for the Chicago Blackhawks late last regular season? He was a solid addition, even gaining a couple quick shifts on the top line. He didn’t participate in the Blackhawks’ abrupt first-round playoff exit, however, and the noise around him trickled away.
Fast forward to the present and we find ourselves talking about Hayden again in the 2017 preseason. Professional sports preseasons are a funny thing; they’re silly because in the most meaningless time of a season, people’s hopes are the highest and every fan base thinks its training camp hero will become the next Martin St. Louis.
While I do not think that will be the case by any stretch, I do think Hayden’s training camp and preseason performance have been good enough for him to earn a spot with the big boys on opening night.
Hayden is a big body that can play on both sides of the ice effectively. Even last year while he was in college, Hayden was considered one of the most NHL-ready prospects the Blackhawks had.
His late-season audition to me proved he was ready. Him staying also makes sense for the Blackhawks, who are an incredibly top-heavy team.
The top six looks like it can be a nightly threat for opposing teams. However, the best teams don’t win with simply a loaded top six. Nay, the best ones get important contributions from all over the roster.
Need I remind you of Michael Frolik’s crucial penalty shot goal against the Red Wings in the 2013 postseason that produced one of the best gifs of all time?
Hayden is a player who is decent now but could develop into a really solid player for the ‘Hawks, and who could shore up the bottom six.
The thing that would make Hayden securing a spot even more impressive is that fellow rookie and the most hyped player in the Blackhawks’ system, Alex DeBrincat, has also had a really great camp.
You’d have to be living under a rock in Chicago if you weren’t aware of coach Joel Quenneville’s reluctance to play youngsters, and when they do play they are given especially short leashes. It’s hard for me to see Coach Q using up two NHL spots on young guys who could benefit from some seasoning in the AHL.
With that being said, I think — and this may be an unpopular opinion — that Hayden deserves an NHL spot just as much as DeBrincat. While not as eye-opening as DeBrincat, Hayden is clearly ready to go in the NHL, whereas DeBrincat could definitely use the time in the AHL honing his skills against other professionals.
Either way, I think we see both these players being regular contributors for the ‘Hawks at some point this season, and that to me is a lot of reason to be excited.