The 2020 draft has had an established front-runner in Alexis Lafreniere since the beginning of the scouting season and while his positioning seems to have held course, this next player on our list has been knocking at the door all season long.
Coming in at number two is Sudbury Wolves center, Quinton Byfield.
Name: Quinton Byfield
Date of Birth: August 19, 2002
Weight: 214 lbs
The challenges in scouting don’t come from analyzing who is the best player at the present moment. If that was all that was required, teams would get it right almost every time. The challenge comes from projecting how good a prospect will be when he is finished developing and in comparison to the rest of his peers. Such is the case with Quinton Byfield who may not be the best player right now but oozes potential and is armed with an elite toolkit that should transfer extremely well into the NHL. He has the upside to be the best player of his draft class and will make watching the first pick of the NHL entry draft ever so interesting to watch.
As my colleague Chris Faber said in his article to kick off this series, this is Alexis Lafreniere’s draft. However, I don’t agree with his statement that the draft lottery winner will pick Lafreniere without hesitation. Because Byfield plays a premium position and has such a high upside, I wouldn’t be surprised if a team has Byfield at the top of their rankings. We should also mention that Byfield is almost a full year younger than Lafreniere, 10 months to be exact. That’s a huge gap in prospect development and should be taken into consideration.
Diving deeper into Byfield’s numbers, he posted a 1.51 primary points-per-game which was third out of all prospects in their first draft-eligible season this year. He also had a hand in 45% of Sudbury’s total goals on the season which is only second to Alexis Lafreniere. Micro stats tracked by Mitch Brown give us a better understanding of the ways that Byfield impacts the ice for his team. As we can see from the chart below, Byfield was in the 93rd percentile of the 857 prospects tracked by Brown this season. His passing game was also extremely strong as he was in the 96th percentile in shot contributions although he struggled to create shot assists off the rush. Byfield was also a strong influence pushing play up ice as he posted strong controlled entry and exit numbers.
So what are the scouts saying about the 6’4″ center?
A physical specimen who blends exceptional power to a speed-driven, skill game. His quick hands allow him to maneuver in tight spaces, while the long reach propels his puck-protection. A mammoth of a man at just 17. He’s not the best player today, but his upside is too large to ignore.
-Cam Robinson, DobberProspect
Byfield is a player who is easy to get excited about. He checks off all the boxes you want in a top NHL prospect. Excellent skater? Check. Elite skill? Check. Great vision? Check. Can score goals? Check. A physically imposing player who competes? Check. A very impressive statistical track record? Check. You are talking about a 6-foot-4 center who projects to be above, if not well above NHL average in terms of speed, skill and playmaking. In my opinion, other than Lafreniere, nobody else in this draft class is particularly close to Byfield. He is a projected star-caliber first-line forward who can be a foundational piece of a rebuild.
-Corey Pronman, The Athletic
Any concerns about Byfield’s skating or puck skill among scouts have surely faded by now. These days, Byfield’s top speed has progressed to a point where he can make a ton of things happen through the middle of the ice and his hands help him make small area plays that kids his size normally can’t. If I have one outstanding concern with Byfield’s game it’s his defensive play. There are little things like his faceoff ability (he’s 50 percent on draws this season, which normally translates to the mid-to-high 40s at the NHL level) and more pronounced things like his first couple of steps and the way they can contribute to him standing around instead of closing off on opposing players, as well as his tendency to misread plays. Otherwise, it’s all there. He can play with pace, he’s dangerous in tight, he can score from mid-distance with his release, he’s extremely hard to take the puck off and he’s an excellent playmaker for his size, routinely making plays through defenders that some high-skill smaller players even tend to struggle with.
-Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
The team that selects the Newmarket, Ontario native, will be acquiring a potential franchise-altering player. The fact that he can play fast and skilled in a mould that fits where the game is heading while being 6’4″ means that his upside is arguably the highest of the entire draft class. Add in the fact that he is one of the youngest players of this draft with ample runway to grow, and you have a future first-line center for any rebuilding team.