Top 25 Under 25: No. 22 Jayden Halbgewachs broke through with Barracuda
The undersized winger has proven himself time and again along the way — can he break through to the big league this year?
The 2020-21 season is going to be a pivotal one for forward Jayden Halbgewachs.
At 23 years old, Halbgewachs has yet to make his NHL debut. It’s not like the clock is fully run out or anything, but Halbgewachs is going into his sixth season out from what would have been his draft year, had he been drafted. He put up just eight points that season for the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Instead, he returned to the WHL for three more seasons, improving to 41 points the following season. As an older player, he put together back-to-back seasons of 101 and 129 points. His final WHL season, he was nearly a goal-per-game player, with 70 goals in 72 games, leading the WHL in goals and points and was named the CHL’s top-scorer.
In 2017, leading into his final WHL season, he attended the Vegas Golden Knights’ development camp and did not earn a contract. The San Jose Sharks signed him that December.
I guess this is the part where I talk about the fact that Halbgewachs is 5-foot-8, something that may have been more of a knock on him in 2015-16 than it is today, but I do think his size has played a role in his career so far. He’s had to build strength and learn how to use his size in a sport with just a few top players of a similar size.
His final two WHL seasons are often written off as Halbgewachs being an older player in the league, without taking into account that he made that massive jump in production without a corresponding growth spurt. It’s a bit of a disservice to him to lump him as having a “typical” overage season when he led the entire CHL in scoring.
But when he made the jump to professional hockey with the San Jose Barracuda, his pace slowed. His 35 points still ranked fifth that season on a struggling Barracuda squad, not terrible for a rookie, but a bit uninspiring. Halbgewachs hit that same mark in nine fewer games last season, improving from 13 goals to 19. He finished the shortened 2019-20 season first on the team in goals, second in points, third in shots (115), tied for first in game-winning goals (4) and first in overtime goals (3).
It won’t be the end of the world if Halbgewachs doesn’t see some NHL time this season — it’s going to be a weird year, and it seems like John Leonard is on track to jump the line when it comes to left wing depth. He’s only under contract through 2022 though, so the time to start making an impression is now.
What We Like
The kid has a solid work ethic and while he may take time to adjust to better and older competition, his game is there once his feet are wet. He’s an incredibly responsible player, topping out at just 27 penalty minutes in the 2016-17 season. His skating has improved since the Sharks signed him in 2017.
Areas of Improvement
Would you believe he’s smaller than he used to be? In 2018, he was listed at 165 pounds, now dropping to 161. He’s never going to be much taller, but adding some muscle will theoretically help keep him from being completely bowled over in the big leagues.
At this point, he needs to stand out at camp and make himself a contender for a roster spot, not just a call up.
Here’s his ‘Cuda highlight reel from the 2019-20 season. I’m a big fan of the overtime goal against the San Diego Gulls that starts around 23 seconds into the video.