As part of our Road to the Draft content series, NewJerseyDevils.com will be profiling the top North American and European Skaters eligible for the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft. This will allow Devils and hockey fans at large to familiarize themselves with the next class of NHL talent. We now take a look at Sudbury Wolves forward Quinton Byfield.
WEIGHT: 214 lbs
DRAFT YEAR PRODUCTION: 45 GP, 32 G, 50 A, 82 P
WHAT'S THE BUZZ:
"When you look at his skill level, it's very, very good, but it's the completeness of the effort that competitiveness stands out with his size, his skating his determination to impact the game everywhere on the ice. We use the term '200-foot player', that's where Quinton Byfield really establishes himself. So, when you look at his projection into the NHL I see him clearly as a number one two way center in the mold of LA Kings star Anze Kopitar."
- TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button
CUT TO THE CHASE:
It won't take long for Canadian forward Quinton Byfield to hear his name called at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The expectations have been set that the forward will be gone before the draft reaches the fourth pick. Currently ranked as the number two North American skater, Byfield's name has been interchangeable with Germany's Tim Stutzle as the projected 2 or 3 pick, behind Alexis Lafrenière.
Here's a player that any franchise could use to help solidify a number one center presence. He's skilled, he's big, he's strong and he has the rare attribute of combining all those assets with also being an excellent skater. His skating abilities are beyond that of being able to move well across the ice, but also has an explosiveness that is an asset in his transition game.
In his second year playing for the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL, Byfield put up 82 points, 22 points more than his rookie season in 2018-19. In 109 regular season games in the CHL, Byfield has 143 points. He was drafted first overall in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection Draft.
His 2019-20 season of 882 points helped lead the Wolves to the top spot in the OHL's Central Division with 34-27-1-1 record. The club had the top seed heading into the post-season before the tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Byfield's assets lay not only in his offensive numbers, but his commitment to being a 200-foot player. He is responsible at both ends of the ice, an area of his game he has committed to improving since his rookie season in Sudbury.
"A player with his size and strength, and I think there's more size and strength to come," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said in April, "but to able to have soft hands and vision and make plays and when players try to eliminate him, he can beat you with power or he can beat you with hands and hockey sense, so it makes him very, very tough to contain and a very attractive prospect obviously."
On multiple occasions, Byfield has been compared to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who is built in the same 6-foot-4 mold. Malkin is a bona fide NHL star, the comparisons awfully flattering for the young Byfield.
"He's a big, 200-foot center and just the amazing offensive ability he has. Just how he plays is just unbelievable. I definitely watch him quite a bit and try and model my game after him," Byfield said in April. "It's just an honor to be compared to that guy. He's a soon-to-be Hall of Famer."
Byfield was part of Team Canada's gold medal winning team at the 2020 World Juniors and was the youngest member of the team.
At 17 years old, the young man has many dreams, which start with being drafted into the NHL. It does also include being a role model for African American boys who are taking up the sport. Should Byfield be selected in the two-three spot where he is projected, he would be the highest-drafted Black players in NHL history (behind Evander Kane and Seth Jones, both selected at 4).
"Being top for something is always cool and being the top pick among players of color would definitely be something really special to me," Byfield told NHL.com's Mike Morreale in February. "I think the game is changing and the NHL is becoming more diverse. Definitely that would get kids motivated to start playing hockey, knowing that they can play, and that hockey is for everyone."
DID YOU KNOW?
Byfield is known for his choice of game-day attire. While his teammates sport ties along with their game-day suits, Byfield prefers to go the bow-tie route.
He says his count is roughly 30-40 bowties in his current collection.