Future Stars: Quinton Byfield
Quinton Byfield is currently ranked by many as the second-best prospect in the 2020 National Hockey League entry draft. However, I view him as a potential number one pick come draft day, ahead of the current consensus pick, Alexis Lafreniere.
Born on August 19th, 2002, in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, Byfield is one of the youngest players in his draft class. Taken first overall by the Ontario Hockey Leagues, Sudbury Wolves, in 2018, Byfield was quick to make an impact. Although not producing at quite the rate as Lafreniere in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Byfield still put up a very good 29 goals and 32 assists for 61 points in 64 games played. He then improved his play for the postseason, recording 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points in 8 games played.
He was invited to play for the Under-17 Canada Black World Hockey Championship team. There he was awarded the assistant captaincy. He went on to record 2 goals and 1 assist for 3 points in 5 games played.
However, there is certainly more to his game than his stats show, and here is what I gathered from an “eye test”.
Byfield is a great skater. His strides look so effortless as he skates, and it’s satisfying to watch. He has good top-end speed, and it doesn’t take much for him to reach that top speed. He also possesses excellent edgework, which allows him to stop and start on a dime. It also allows him to change directions and make tight turns.
He also has a constant motor, as he is always moving his feet. This allows him to find the soft spots in coverage, as the fact he constantly moves makes it difficult for opponents to contain him. His vision isn’t limited to just off-the-puck movement either.
He utilizes his good on-ice vision to its full extent, as well as pairing that vision with his hockey IQ. When he does this it allows him to be a solid playmaker. But, he is a sniper at heart. He is constantly looking for ways to shoot the puck and score goals.
His shot is hard and accurate, allowing him to score from a distance, with consistency. He also doesn’t need much space on his shot in order to let it rip, which makes him a lethal sniper.
He is fantastic at changing the positioning of his hands on his stick in order to make a pass while being pressured or getting a shot off in traffic. Even in the tightest coverages, he finds a way to get the puck through one way or another. Byfield has ridiculous puck control, able to fight through sticks and bodies while maintaining puck possession.
He also has great hands, though he doesn’t often show that side of his game often. He is creative at times, and holds the ability to dice up defensemen, but would much rather be smart with the puck on his tape, and trying not to get too cute with the puck. He’s very good in tight to the goalie, as his shot can be difficult to save in short-range, along with the fact he can dangle in a phone booth, and completely fool a goalie only a few feet away.
Byfield played in all 3 situations for Sudbury, whether it was even strength, on the power play or on the penalty kill. He also showed off his versatility, as he can play in all three forward positions. He works the half-wall and point areas on the power play, while also chipping in the occasional net-front presence.
He doesn’t forecheck hard, although he does have a good stick. By that, I mean he is always waving his stick around, disrupting plays. He has a good poke-check, as well as hand-eye coordination, allowing him to cut down on passes and transition up ice. He has a long reach, as he stands at 6’4 and 214 pounds, and he uses that reach to its full extent.
Despite his size, however, he doesn’t often throw hits. Though he does not shy away from the physicality of the game, he only steps up and delivers a hit cleanly and when he knows he won’t be out of position. Good discipline, but players still need more aggression, especially a kid with his size.
Where he uses his big frame the most is in board battles. He welcomes a good scrum and often wins those battles with his high IQ and his strength.
Defensive Zone Coverage
In the defensive zone, he doesn’t stand out for better or worse. He’s just decent at what he does defensively and goes about his business. Quinton does, on occasion, get caught puck-watching, but it doesn’t happen often enough for it to be a problem. He is good enough in that aspect for a coach to fix up his bad habits. He does a good job being active defensively, supporting his teammates down low, as well as keeping his point men in check, when playing on the wing.
All in all, Byfield is a magnificent prospect, and a safe bet to make an NHL squad right out of the draft. Byfield has unlimited potential and could be Patrice Bergeron-esque. He has the foundation of a solid two-way game, with incredible upside as a sniper. He is such a well-rounded prospect.
Byfield is a force on the transition. Not only is he very difficult to stop, but he is constantly in possession of the puck. His teammates rely heavily on Byfield’s incredible transitional game, and despite defenseman ultimately knowing he will likely be with the puck in the neutral zone, he still finds a way through. To show just how good he is, I calculated and gathered his entry stats and compared it with four other 2020 draft-eligible players.
Yes, Byfield has more successful entries (passes to a teammate to enter or skates it into the offensive zone himself) than Lafreniere has total entry attempts. That in itself is remarkable. It shows just how good he is at getting the puck in and attacking offensively with his lethal offensive attributes. However, it certainly does not end there. Byfield is also very good at getting the puck out of the defensive end swiftly and efficiently.
Yet again, Byfield tops the chart, ahead of the current number one player, Lafreniere. He doesn’t fail at getting the puck out of the zone often and is able to garner a high volume of controlled exits. He is a transitional all-star, as he is effective going up the ice and on the rush with control. Byfield deserves to be looked at as someone who could potentially overthrow Byfield before next season concludes. That’s how good he is.
Byfield may not be the power forward type of player that Lafreniere is. He also doesn’t have quite the same hockey sense and awareness that Lafreniere has. But, he is a faster skater, still possesses good size, and has a high level of awareness to boot. So while Lafreniere still remains on top, Byfield is dangerously close to his throne, and could very well take his crown by next June.
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All stats via eliteprospects
All film via prospectshifts