The Journey – First Round Surprises

Brad Phillips



The NHL draft is always full of surprises and this year was no different. Things got started early with a surprise top-five pick and continued throughout the first round. Here are a few such picks that caused a few eyebrows to raise on the draft floor.


Barrett Hayton

While the first four picks went pretty much as expected, things got really interesting with pick number five where the Arizona Coyotes selected Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds centre man Barrett Haydon. That’s not to say that Hayton wasn’t expected to be a high pick, but most prognosticators had him pegged around the 10 to 12 slot. Buried on a deep and powerful Greyhounds team, Hayton put up solid, if not truly eye-popping, numbers.  In fact, they were eerily similar to his teammate and surprise 2017 first round pick, Morgan Frost. In 63 games, Hayton scored 21 times and dished out 39 assists with these 60 points being the sixth most on the team. Considering he was primarily used in a third line capacity, these numbers are certainly encouraging. He added another eight goals and 21 points in 24 playoff contests, tying for fifth on the team. Hayton was named the winner of the Bobby Smith Trophy given to the OHL Scholastic Player of the year. Looking at the list of past winners, every one since 2006-07 (not including Nic Hague or Sasha Chmelevski) has gone on to become an NHL regular. So take that for what it’s worth.


Hayton is known for his advances all-around game. There may not be elite level tools in his toolbox but he’s no slouch, especially when it comes to his playmaking ability. There probably going to be a lot of second-guessing on this pick unless Hayton can people a reason to believe he is a worthy fifth overall pick. A draft+1 year like his teammate Frost had would go a long way.



Liam Foudy

Every year there tends to be one first round pick that rockets up the draft rankings thanks to an incredible second half. This year it was Columbus pick Liam Foudy. Back in January, NHL Central Scouting had Foudy ranked in the 90’s but something happened that changed this immensely. The London Knights shipped off top players such as Robert Thomas and Cliff Pu with Foudy being given a larger role and he seized this opportunity in a big way. Prior to January 1, 2018, Foudy has registered just seven points in 34 games for the Knights. But once the calendar flipped to 2018 he went on an absolute tear by reeling off 33 points in 31 contests. All told he finished the year with 24 goals and 16 assists in 65 games. Of these 24 goals, five were shorthanded, which tied him for third in the OHL in this category. Jeff Marek did an interview with his mother shortly after he was drafted where Marek said the Foudy family mantra was “Build the athlete first and the hockey player second.” And what an athlete Foudy is. He absolutely killed it at the combine, finishing first in a number of the tests. In addition to being one of the best junior hockey players in the country, he’s was also an elite level track athlete. It should be no