When I first started writing for both the Sudbury Wolves and the LA Kings in 2018, I used to joke about how incredible it would be if the Kings could somehow draft Quinton Byfield. Last night, it actually happened.
After two years of daydreaming of the possibility it became a reality; the Kings selected him second overall in the NHL Entry Draft. As the confetti floated to the floor in his family's home, he traded his dapper white suit jacket and bow tie for a black and silver jersey. Quinton was a King.
My first season as the Wolves' Team Historian was Byfield's rookie year. Although my job was to celebrate the team's heritage and share moments from the past, when I was at home games, all I could do was think about the future and how bright it looked with Byfield in the lineup.
Sudbury hadn't had a player like Byfield in a long time, perhaps in forever. He is just such a dynamic and talented player. Every time he's on the ice, you gravitate towards what he's doing. Simply put, he leaves a lasting impression on you.
As soon as he played his first game for the Wolves, he was turning heads. Literally. I can recall one game in particular in which he pounced on a puck in the neutral zone and accelerated down the length of the ice and out of the frame. By the time the broadcast camera caught up with him and he came back into view, he already put the puck in the net. That's how fast he is.
I've seen dozens and dozens of Wolves games over the year, including the club's memorable run to the Ontario Hockey League championship in 2007, where I spent most of the games three rows deep in the standing room only section because it was nearly impossible to get a seat, but there have been few, if any, players over that span who possess the kind of magnetism he has on the ice.
His goals aren't always the flashiest, but there's just something about him that draws you in. For me, it's his speed. I always go back to how quick he is. There's another game that comes to mind, but we probably can't embed that tweet here because I swore in it, but I'll do my best to describe it.
A Wolves player advances into the offensive zone with the puck and puts the brakes on in the right faceoff circle as he encounters pressure from a defenceman. As two opposing player skate back through the slot between the dots, there are no other Sudbury players in the zone. All of a sudden, Byfield skates right between them to the front of the net, accepts the pass, and puts it past the goaltender.
Byfield's speed is captivating but it's even more impressive because he isn't this diminutive player who is using his quickness to his advantage. He's 6-foot-4. He has the frame of a power forward and he only recently turned 18. He's only going to fill out more and get stronger and, ultimately, add a new element to his game.
There are plenty of scouting reports out there that could give you a much more sophisticated and nuanced evaluation of Byfield's skillsets, I'd start with this one by Rachel Doerrie, but suffice it to say he's a special player.
Which is why I wanted him to go to LA. Sure, part of that had to do with the fact that I have the opportunity to write for the Kings from Sudbury, which probably makes me the only person in the world to weave yarns about a Southern California hockey team from a crater in Northern Ontario.
It would be the perfect confluence for me, but that's not really the reason. I primarily write about hockey history and while Byfield made NHL history last night by becoming the highest ever drafted Black player, that's not my story to tell.
And while there will be other stories for me to write about him once he's here, I could honestly say I didn't throw on my Kings Stadium Series jersey last night to watch the draft because I thought I'd get a few more bylines if he went to LA.
I wanted him to go there because I want him to succeed. I believe he will do well in LA because of everything the team has been building and I can think of no better place for him to hone his skills as a center than with Anze Kopitar as his mentor. I think that if Byfield continues to develop the way we all project, he will be a big reason why the Kings are successful in the coming years.
The Kings drafted Byfield because they see a future for him in the organization. Although I wasn't privy to the discussions that led up to the selection, I have no doubt that that they see him as the type of player and person they can build the team around. I don't know Quinton and, despite living on the same street as him for the better part of last season, I've never met him. That being said, he genuinely seems like a great human being from everyone I have talked to. The same way you just know he's a special player, you just know he's a special person.
This past season, Byfield and the Wolves partnered with NEO Kids, a regional hub for specialized children's care, to create an initiative called "Q's Kids," in which he would invite patients and their families out to a Wolves game. Following the game, he would meet with the families, sign autographs and tour them around the Wolves' dressing room.
You just got the sense from his involvement in that program that he genuinely cared about making those families feel welcome and that it was important for him to give them a special night as a way to take their minds off their treatments. You just get that the sense that, even as a 17-year-old, he already understood the importance of giving back to his community.
While the things he does off the ice may not have necessarily factored into why the Kings selected him second overall, they speak to his character and how he will enrich Los Angeles.
We don't know when we will see Quinton in a Kings uniform, but we already know he looks sharp in black and white and there are plenty of reasons why we should be excited for what the future holds for him.