One of the Nutmeg State’s own is putting his stamp on the 2013 NHL Entry Draft’s impressive field of prospects.
Greenwich, Conn., native John Hayden left the Brunswick Bruins two years ago for the developmental edge and challenges of the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. Since then, the power forward and Yale recruit who turned 18 on Valentine’s Day has had to overcome a chipped bone in his knee (now 100 percent healthy) and a tardy start to the season while still recovering.
“I came in a little late,” Hayden told New England Hockey Journal before the Five Nations Cup in Sweden last month. “The Four Nations (in Ann Arbor) was a good event. We had a lot of success as a team and I think playing against some top international competition helped me as a player.”
The right-shooting center has seven goals and 20 points in 43 games for Team USA this year. Those might not be eye-popping stats until you consider that the Under-18 squad goes head-to-head against older players in the NCAA ranks, as well as more seasoned skaters in the USHL.
“We’re very lucky to have a D1 (NCAA) schedule,” he said. “You realize in the games you don’t have as much time and space, so when you make plays, it boosts your confidence. Going up against college players and older juniors prepares you mentally and physically for what’s coming up at the next level.”
Born in Chicago, Hayden spent his early elementary years in Denver before his family moved to Connecticut. Although he eventually became a New York Rangers fan, he had an affinity for Colorado Avalanche stars like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy. More recently, he backed former Ranger Brandon Dubinsky before his trade to Columbus as part of the Rick Nash deal.
Hayden credits his parents for being the driving force behind the player and person he’s developing into. Being closer to home and his family was a factor in his decision to choose the Bulldogs in New Haven over some of the Hockey East schools that pursued him.
He also looks to Prentiss Performance Gym under owner/trainer Don Prentiss for helping him develop his off-ice work ethic and professional training habits.
“You learn that you really can’t afford to take any days off,” said Hayden. “There are kids all across the country who would die to be on this team. I take that commitment to USA Hockey very seriously.”
New England 2013
- NHL Draft Prospects
Top Five for March
1. Adam Erne
RW, Quebec (QMJHL), 6-1, 205 (North Branford, Conn.)
Down the stretch in the final month of the regular season, Erne is the top area draft prospect by a good margin.
C, Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL), 5-10, 170 (North Reading, Mass.)
Some scouts are divided over Fitzgerald’s long-term NHL potential, but players with his kind of high-end hockey sense usually go earlier rather than late.
C, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 6-3, 210 (Greenwich, Conn.)
RW, Middlesex IHC (EJHL), 6-3, 190 (Auburn, N.H.)
Plenty of NHL tools, but the toolbox something teams will have to explore. Former Pinkerton Astro proving to be an intriguing draft wildcard.
D, Hotchkiss (HS-Conn.), 6-6, 210 (Greenwich, Conn.)
Some question the upside at the NHL level, but when you’re this big, certainly worth taking a chance on.
(Mass. D1 H.S.)
C, St. John’s Prep (HS-Mass.), 6-0, 175 (North Andover, Mass.)
This smart, industrious centerman has SJP firing on all cylinders. Don’t be surprised if NHL teams are onto him.
F, Austin Prep (HS-Mass.), 6-1, 195 (North Reading, Mass.)
It can be tough sometimes living in the shadow of his older brother Jimmy, but the Cougars co-captain has carved out a niche for himself by showing great offensive skills and clutch ability.
G, BC High (HS-Mass.), 6-2, 185 (Norwell, Mass.)
As pure a stopper as there is in Massachusetts, he keyed the upset over SJP in the 2012 Super 8 semifinal and has the talent to lead his team to greater heights in 2013.
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.