Quinton Byfield is the most intriguing prospect evaluated so far in our draft series. He is listed at a staggering 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and is a center who is a left-handed shot. He’s also only 17 years old and does not turn 18 until August, which also makes him one of the youngest prospects in this class. The Canadian has played all his junior hockey in his home country and plays for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. He has long been the consensus number two prospect in the draft. And this is confirmed by the 2020 Draft Prospect Rankings, which had him as the second-ranked North American skater in both the final and midterm rankings.
Byfield has had an extremely productive junior hockey career. He began as a 14-year-old in the Eastern AAA Bantam Hockey League, playing 33 games and tallying 108 points (47 goals, 61 assists). He holds the league’s all-time points-per-game record, at 3.27, with the next closest in league history at a point-per-game average of 2.34.
Byfield then moved to the Eastern Triple A Minor Midget Hockey League, where he tallied 96 points across two seasons with his team. His 92-point (48 goals, 44 assists) 2017-18 season led the league by 22 points. His career 2.53 points per game average stands fourth all-time in the league, ahead of the likes of Matt Duchene and Alex Newhook, and just behind Taylor Hall (2.88 points per game) and Steven Stamkos (2.99 points per game).
Most recently, he has played two seasons in the OHL. In the 2018-19 season, Byfield totaled 61 points (29 points, 32 assists), which led his 43-20-3-2 Sudbury team. This season he improved his point total to 82 (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 games, again leading his team. This translated to 1.82 points per game, which ranked him fifth in the league.
He also took part in the 2020 World Junior Championships, where he struggled mightily, only posting one assist and a minus-three rating in seven games. His play in the 2019-20 Hlinka Gretzky Cup was solid, as he had five points in five games, which tied him for fifth-most in the tournament.
The Scouting Report
Byfield is regarded by many as the second-best prospect in this draft, so he has a ton of strengths. What stands out, of course, is his size for being only 17 years old. His 6-foot-4 frame, coupled with already weighing 215 pounds, is tremendous for a kid his age.
The best part about it, he does not skate like he is that big. He has top-notch acceleration and his “straight-line” speed is terrific. This skating ability makes him deadly in the transition game, where — like current Devil Jack Hughes — Byfield tallied most of his points in the OHL. This combination of size and speed is extremely rare.
Byfield is regarded as a better goal-scorer than a playmaker. His shot is one of the best in the draft, and he loves scoring the “dirty” goal in and around the net. He does a great job of putting himself in a position where the puck eventually finds him — such as on rebounds or one-timers — then the back of the net. Additionally, he is also a solid playmaker. His passing abilities are completely fine, and his great stick-handling and stellar vision only further his overall playmaking abilities.
He is also competent in his own end. His large size and speed allow him to use his sticky to break-up plays and block shots. Overall, Byfield is a terrific offensive-center who is also, for the most part, reliable in his own end.
There are, like every prospect, some weaknesses to Byfield’s game. For a guy with a 6-foot-4 frame, he isn’t as physical as he should be and does not use it to his advantage enough. There are even some parts in his film that he is knocked off a puck by a smaller guy, which is not a good look given his size.
Another area of his game that needs slight improvement is his defensive awareness. As is mentioned above, Byfield is competent in his own zone. However, he is more of an offensive player, so his mindset, at times, is such. This sometimes affects his defensive positioning.
Do not get me wrong, Byfield should be a great player down the road. His production was great, and he has a rare blend of skills that someone his size rarely has. For this reason, he has even been given Evgeni Malkin comparisons. However, I do believe people are slightly overrating him due to his size.
Do not be surprised one bit if Byfield is edged out by Tim Stützle for the second overall pick come draft day. This specifically because of Stützle being the more all-around, complete player. I also slightly prefer Marco Rossi, whose production in the OHL was better than Byfield’s, and also someone whose defensive game is a lot better than given credit for.
Even with all this, I expect Byfield to be off the board with either pick two or pick three.
Fit With the Devils
The only way the Devils will have a chance to draft Byfield is if they win a prospective lottery. As mentioned above, he will not be on the board past selection three.
If the Devils find themselves in a position where Byfield somehow drops, past three, or if they move up in the lottery, selecting him would set the Devils’ top-three centers for years to come. He also fits the goal-scoring need the Devils have had for years perfectly.
Ranking of Evaluated Prospects
1. Alexis Lafrenière (no profile will be released)
2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)
3. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)
4. Quinton Byfield (Today)
5. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)
6. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)
7. Cole Perfetti (05/05/2020)
8. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)
9. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)
10. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)