CHL Notebook: Barrett Hayton returns to Greyhounds ready to be a leader

Rickard Hugg put away his team-leading sixth goal of the season to get the Greyhounds a 4-1 win over the Kitchener Rangers.

Getting one of the elite players of the age group back in the lineup was a boost for the Sault Ste. Greyhounds. But Barrett Hayton brings more than just goals to the team.

“He brings a level of maturity to his game and also his approach with the staff and the other players that makes my job easy,” Greyhounds coach John Dean said. “You want the players to take over the room themselves. You don’t want to always be in there all the time barking stuff and he’s the kind of guy, because he leads by example and because he carries such weight, he’s one of those guys that you know the room is in good hands.”

Hayton’s ability to lead by example is something that has commanded the respect of his teammates along with the coaching staff.

“Any leader’s best quality is leading by example,” Dean said. “You can’t ask the people around you to do things when you’re not doing it yourself. He’s exceptional at leading by example. He’s a quiet guy but he’s sociable. He’s not one of those guys that keeps to himself. He’s quiet but he’s always talking to guys.”

Dean noted an exchange during practice over the weekend in which Hayton approached the staff to work on the power play ahead of action on Sunday.

“He asked me ‘Can we please get some touches? I’d really like to go over some stuff and feel good for tomorrow,’” Dean said. “I wasn’t planning on doing it but if that’s something my captain feels needs to be done, we’re the kind of staff to go ahead and do it. He’s more vocal than people realize. He’s just not rah-rah. When he talks, everybody listens.”

The Greyhounds named Hayton captain following his return from the Arizona Coyotes, and the 2018 fifth-overall pick wants to be a role model for the younger players as the team rebuilds from a record-setting season in 2017-18.

“Just leading by example and always trying to do the right thing (is important),” Hayton said. “I can be a role model for the younger guys. I’m not a real vocal leader. I’m able to step up and say what needs to be said but overall I’m just a lead-by-example kind of guy.”

Hayton’s return to the lineup was also a boost offensively for the Greyhounds as the 18-year-old has three goals and six points in his first three games.

The chance to participate in his first NHL training camp is something that helped the Peterborough, Ont. product learn more about growing as a player.

“I learned a ton of stuff every day,” Hayton said. “It’s different for every player. Being able to have the perspective from a bunch of the veteran players was awesome for me.”

“Everyone knows what they have to do to be prepared,” he added. “Guys come in early to get treatment. Recovery and preparation are stressed there because guys really understand what they personally need. They’re doing everything they can to be the best they can be.”

The return to junior was an adjustment for Hayton, who is also playing for a new coaching staff after all three members of the Greyhounds staff made the jump to pro hockey during the summer.

Like many junior players, Hayton spoke of wanting to “play a faster game,” as he continues to prepare to make the eventual jump to pro hockey but is pleased with the developments in his game over the last year.

“I’m really focused on all aspects of my game,” Hayton said. “I got a lot faster and that’s been my biggest focus, but every part of my game I’ve been trying to work on and I’m happy with the improvements I’ve made.”

Hayton’s certainly made an impression so far. His new coach in Sault Ste. Marie had high praise for him.

“It’s incredible to me how good he is in small spaces,” Dean said. “When pressure is on him in the offensive zone, his poise with the puck is nothing short of incredible. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

“When you talk about a 200-foot player, people usually go straight to the defensive side, but his skill is sneaky good,” Dean added. “He’s got exceptional skill and he does it at a high pace.”

CHANGES IN FLINT

The Flint Firebirds are in the process of searching for a new head coach.

In the midst of a winless start to the season, Ryan Oulahen stepped down as coach of the team on Friday.

Personal and family reasons were behind the decision.

Greg Stefan coached the team over the weekend.

MEMORIAL CUP HOSTS ROLLING

The Halifax Mooseheads are rolling along in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Led by a quartet of NHL prospects, the Mooseheads jumped out of the gate and sit atop the Maritimes Division.

The team is led by Anaheim Ducks prospect Antoine Morand, who brings a wealth of Memorial Cup experience after winning the tournament with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Morand inked an entry-level contract with the Ducks at the end of May and leads the Mooseheads in scoring with five goals and 13 points in eight games.

2019 draft prospect Raphael Lavoie is also off to a hot start with nine goals and 12 points in nine games.

At 8-2-0-0, Halifax is in a tight battle in the overall QMJHL standings with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (9-1-0-0) and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar (8-2-0-1) all chasing the top spot.

UNBEATEN NO MORE

The last unbeaten team in the Canadian Hockey League is no more after the Victoria Royals dropped a 3-2 decision to their provincial rival, the Vancouver Giants, on Sunday.

The Giants ended Victoria’s unbeaten run thanks in part to a pair of goals from import forward Milos Roman.

A Calgary Flames prospect, Roman is off to a solid start with the Giants this season. The sophomore forward has five goals and nine points in 10 games.

A two-time member of the Slovakian national junior team, Roman has goals in four consecutive games and points in seven straight games. He had 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games last season with the Giants.

The Royals, now 7-1-0, fall to three points behind the Giants in the B.C. Division standings as Vancouver improved to 8-1-1-0 with the win.

RAIDERS LEAD THE WAY

Speaking about teams that are hot to start the season, how about the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders?

Led by 19-year-old Brett Leason offensively, the Raiders have jumped out to a 10-1-0-0 record out of the gate.

For Leason, who was picked up in a trade with Tri-City last season, it’s been an outstanding start to the year. With nine goals and 22 points in just 11 games, the veteran forward is well on his way to setting career highs offensively.

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