John Hayden is coming off a season that saw him split time between the Chicago Blackhawks and their AHL affiliate in Rockford. He played more than half the season in Chicago before getting sent down to the IceHogs to assist in their stretch and Calder Cup playoff runs. Hayden has more NHL experience compared to most prospects on our Top 25 Under 25 series, playing 59 total games since 2017.
Position: Right winger
Birth date: February 14, 1995 (age 23)
Acquired via: 2013 NHL draft (74th overall, third round)
Most recent stop: Rockford IceHogs — AHL
Size: 6’3, 223 pounds
Contract: 2 years with $750,000 salary cap hit
Last year’s ranking: No. 10
Hayden is a winger that I believe can fill in the spot Vinnie Hinostroza had after the latter was traded to Arizona in July. Hayden is big, he’s fast on his feet and he can make plays. His scoring totals (four goals, nine assists) with the Blackhawks in 47 games last season weren’t eye-catching but he showed progress from a season ago. He also plays a physical brand of hockey with 118 hits, which ranked third on the team to Tommy Wingels (150) and Lance Bouma (132).
Hayden saw time on the Blackhawks’ third and fourth lines last season, but the organization decided he needed time in the AHL to develop his game further to make a bigger impact in the NHL. He put up good numbers during his time in Rockford with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 24 regular-season games and three goals in 13 playoff games.
After the season, the Hawks showed they were impressed enough by Hayden’s production to keep him around by signing him to a two-year contract extension before he was set to become restricted free agent.
What’s next in 2018-19?
The Hinostroza trade opens up a winger spot in the bottom-six group for Hayden, who was a bubble player last season but should establish himself as a NHL player during the upcoming season. The time Hayden spent developing and fine tuning his game in the AHL coupled with his NHL experience should help him make the Hawks’ opening-night roster over the likes AHL players Alexandre Fortin, Matthew Highmore, Anthony Louis and undrafted free agent Dominik Kahun.