Kyle Hayter is going to be seen.
The Helena native, playing for his hometown Bighorns, has been selected to compete in the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament later this month. The tournament, Feb. 27-28 at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, features some of the best junior players in the nation and is heavily scouted by NCAA and NHL coaches and scouts.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “It is really humbling to be selected. They changed the order up a lot for that tournament, and now only about half the number players that went last year get the chance to go this year. So it is awesome to be selected.”
A total of 120 players from the league will be playing on one of six teams, which all play three games. There are four teams representing the eight divisions, while a pair of teams made up of the league’s younger players will also play.
Joining Hayter at the event will the Bighorns forward Bradley Estrada. Hayter will be playing on the combined Frontier/West team, which will skate as White for the tourney. Estrada, meanwhile, will play for the Selects Black -- which, incidentally, faces Hayter’s White in the first game for both squads.
White will then take on the Selects Red team and finish against the East/Midwest Green. Estrada’s Selects team will also play Green, and then finishes against the Central/Coastal Gold.
Estrada leads the Bighorns in scoring this season, with 28 goals and 18 assists for 46 points. Hayter is fourth on that list, scoring seven goals with 13 assists, for 20 points.
“Brad actually texted me,” Hayter said. “That’s how I found out. He was sitting in class and his dad texted him to tell him he’d made the (Selects) team.”
Estrada, he said, then discovered they’d both been selected and sent Hayter a congratulatory text -- which was received with some confusion.
“I didn’t even know what he was talking about at first,” Hayter said with a laugh.
Getting a chance to play at the tourney will be big for both players. Estrada, 18, still has time left at the junior level, though does hope to advance to a higher tier. Hayter, though, is 20 and looking at the next step.
“Definitely the goal is to play NCAA Division III,” he said. “Coming out of this league, that’s about as high as you can get unless you’re on somebody’s radar really early. Going to college, that’s been the goal since Day 1 that I got to this level.”
The Bighorn staff and coaches have been working with Hayter and other players to get the attention of college programs. But the tournament -- played in conjunction with the NAHL’s Top Prospects Tournament -- could provide a big boost.
“It’ll be pretty heavily scouted, which is awesome,” Hayter said. “For the time being, you try to not look at that stuff. There’s a lot that needs to be accomplished with the team right now, and that needs to be accomplished first. But I’m glad to represent Helena in any way I can. I’ll do whatever I can and work the hardest I can when I’m there.”