There is certainly reason for optimism for our 22nd-ranked player, Hunter Haight. He is the prototypical example of a player who was affected by canceled Covid-19 seasons. After losing a year of hockey in 2020-21, he took some time getting back on his feet in the 2021-22 season with Barrie with only 22 goals, 41 points in 63 games. He had a few weeks in mid February where he boasted 12 points in eight games, but other than that he had long stretches of inconsistency. It makes predicting how big of a role he’ll play for the Minnesota Wild in the future a bit of a challenge, but I’m excited for his sophomore season.
Consensus on Haight seems to be that there is hope for a stronger sophomore season. He’s a strong two-way forward and a very very strong skater. I can name maybe only one obvious player in the Ontario Hockey League who can skate better than Haight, between his acceleration, edgework, and a quick stride, there are few who can keep up. He’s hard to separate from the puck at that speed as well. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler said “Haight has breakout season written all over him for next year. Things just didn’t really come together in Barrie this season, and the respective seasons of their players all suffered as a result. But Haight’s talent as an individual creator and finisher is real, and it feels like it’s only a matter of time until he’s filling the net in junior.”
He made a splash at the Wild’s development camp this summer as well, with quite a few leading minds in the Minnesota Wild hockey media sphere stating he was their biggest surprise (Michael Russo and Anthony LaPanta on their podcast, Worst Seats in the House).
Roll the Tape
Before he showed signs of inconsistency, there was a lot of faith in Haight early in the 2021-22 season. He shows flashes of extremely dynamic puck carrying.
This is Hunter Haight in his first career OHL game.— Ben Misfeldt (@BBMHockey) October 12, 2021
Look how sturdy and smooth that skating stride is. Haight is a very dynamic centre who I have no doubt will be a first-rounder this year. He's already a fantastic player for Barrie.#2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/YjVOiTwitu
During the Minnesota Wild development camp this summer, he made a huge splash.
Hunter Haight (43). Those are some slick mitts. Not a bad no-look backhand dish to Beckman (53) either.— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) July 15, 2022
He's gonna be a lot of fun to watch in the OHL next season pic.twitter.com/SN9HCJDdDj
Again, there’s an assumption that his play will only improve with every level he is given time at. He shows great flashes of playing under pressure and driving play at high speed.
Hunter Haight (MIN) has top-15 puck skills in the draft class. Few prospects can control pucks in-tight, under pressure, and in motion like him. Projectable shot, high-level playmaking flashes, and an improving off-puck game, too. The production will come. pic.twitter.com/J1YVTl8c74— Mitchell Brown (@MitchLBrown) July 8, 2022
Finally leaving you with just a flurry, of highlight plays for you to drool at to your heart’s content.
While last year’s play was something to be desired, I think there’s reason to be hopeful that Haight has a middle-six, top nine potential, and it’s always great to have a two-way player at Center. Perhaps Joel Eriksson Ek-lite? Players from this draft who have all been so affected by the lost few years of consistent play are going to be so fun to watch develop – every single one of them could offer us surprises, and Haight has the potential to be more than what he’s offered so far.
He can handle the puck at speed, understands how to create lanes and space off the rush and can complete passes through tight windows, he’s had experience on special teams and has been given hefty minutes in Barrie. He’s not the most naturally creative offensive player, but Haight’s versatile, so fast, and well-rounded. He certainly has the potential to cement himself as an essential part of the Wild’s system. It’ll be fun to find out.
Hockey Wilderness 2022 Top 25 Under 25
25. Mason Shaw, C/LW
22. Hunter Haight, C