Early in the season, the Yale men’s ice hockey team found a leader in forward John Hayden ’17.

Although the season just started, Hayden is already off to a strong start. The Greenwich, Conn., native is firing at a point-per-game pace with one goal and three assists in the Elis’ last four contests.

Success from the start is not new for Hayden. In his freshman season, the then 18-year-old forward put up six goals and 10 assists for a total of 16 points through 33 games — earning him the second most points of any Yale freshman. Additionally, Hayden earned the January 17-18 ECAC Player and Rookie of the Week awards along the way.

Now in his second season with the Elis, Hayden only expects his contributions to the team on the ice and in the locker room to increase.

“With a year of experience under my belt, I expect a lot more from myself this season. I want to be more of a leader both on and off the ice — specifically through setting an example for the freshmen,” Hayden said.

Property of the Chicago Blackhawks as a result of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Hayden is doing just that. His freshman Yale performance and experience with the U.S. National U-18 and U-17 teams elicit the respect necessary to take on a larger leadership role. During Hayden’s time with the U.S. National Team Development Program, he accumulated 19 goals, 16 assists and a total of 35 points over 60 USHL contests.

Fellow sophomore goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 commended Hayden’s past and present performance.

“John was a huge presence in the room last year and is one of the leaders on the team this year. He holds a great deal of respect from everyone, on and off the ice,” Lyon said.

Hayden’s balance both on and off the ice is a perfect mirror for the duality of his skill set — quick hands and the strength to support his attack.

According to Mike Doherty ’17, an unmatched work ethic and drive to be a multidimensional player adds another layer to Hayden’s game.

“He has the skill of a small guy combined with the strength that few in the sport can rival,” Doherty said. “Beyond that his work ethic is second to none. His training and preparation [are] a 24 hour deal.”

Even for a player with a resume as long as Hayden’s — one that includes two silver medals with the 2013 US National Team at the U-18 World Championships — slumps are going to occur. This past weekend, a series of home matchups, in which the Eli’s went 0-1-1 against Clarkson and St. Lawrence, is evidence of just that.

“The tie and loss over the weekend were disappointing, but having a short memory is important in hockey as we need to focus on the coming weekend,” Hayden said. “To be successful moving forward we need to stick to our systems and bear down offensively. Sometimes in hockey gritty is better than pretty.”

Hayden is not at all deterred by this past weekend’s results, citing the team’s cohesion and the leadership of captain Tommy Fallen ’15 as redeeming factors.

With 26 games remaining in the season, Hayden has high hopes for a team just one full season removed from a Division I National Championship. And with the experience of three returning classes and a strong freshman group Hayden himself hopes to set an example for, success is only to be expected.

“[We plan] on winning a lot of championships this year,” Hayden said.

The Bulldogs’ next challenge will be Dartmouth on Friday, Nov. 14.