Reflective Byfield ready for 2020 draft, NHL push
It’s been a long, long wait.
But Quinton Byfield is excited his wait for the 2020 NHL Draft is coming to a close.
“There’s definitely a lot of excitement, I’m definitely thinking about it quite a bit,” Byfield said in a conference call last week. “You know the day you’ve been waiting for all of your life is finally here. It’s definitely going to be a special day for me and I’m really looking forward to that day.”
Despite the excitement, FCHockey’s No. 2-ranked prospect is maintaining the status quo.
He’s been patiently biding his time.
“I’m just sticking to the normal routine,” Byfield said. “Just working out and skating often and playing some golf. Nothing has changed too much for me.”
Hard to believe, given the circumstances.
What worked for Byfield this season, though, should help him for the next.
Byfield collected 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 games with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, and wrapped up fifth in the league with a 1.82 points-per-game.
His total, likely, would’ve been higher if not for a wrist injury that kept him on the sidelines for an extended period.
“It was definitely a tough time just watching my team play,” the Newmarket, ON product said. “I just wanted to be out there with them, try and help the team as best I could, and I was definitely disappointed from that standpoint.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the draft too much during the year, I was just trying to play my game and let the chips fall how they are. I just put out my best effort and show everyone what I can do and why I’m kind of a high-rated prospect and just try to do as best as I can.”
He’s earned the title, going pillar-to-post as the No. 2-ranked prospect for the 2020 draft, and top pivot.
He wasn’t without criticisms, though.
One of the highlights of Byfield’s season was cracking the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship lineup for Team Canada.
He had many critics throughout and after the tournament, collecting just one assist in the seven games en route to the gold medal, however, that point total matched No. 1-ranked prospect Alexis Lafreniere’s first World Junior outing, where he had one goal.
“It was definitely a bit of a learning curve from me,” Byfield started. “Going from playing such a high role and a lot of minutes on the OHL and on the teams previous. I think going in there, I didn’t really have any expectations, I just wanted to do whatever for the team to help them get the win and that’s what I did.
“I kind of just took a lesser role and tried to be a good teammate off the ice and tried to help out the guys as much as I could. Whenever I got a shot, I tried to play my best and tried to prove something.
“I’m still very grateful for the experience and coming home with the gold medal is something you can never take away. Just lessons like that. Sacrificing just a little bit of what you can do for the team to win. I think I definitely can take that back and use that layer in my game.”
He’ll have to wait.
Play has been put on pause.
Though the 2019-20 season ended abruptly – pushing back his NHL Draft debut – the work didn’t stop for the 6-foot-4, 214-pound player.
He pushed on.
“The mindset going into the summer was to try and put on a little weight and get a little stronger,” Byfield explained. “The extra three months definitely helped me do that. Over the summer I gained a little bit more weight and I still have the ability to keep my speed and everything up.
“I just got stronger over the summer. The three months definitely helped my improve my game quite a bit and get a little bit stronger. I’m a little bit older now too,” he joked. “So, it’s all good.”
He’s now heading into the draft a little bit stronger – and older – looking towards the 2020-21 season.
Where he’ll be playing though is up in the air but the prospect knows exactly where he wants to be.
With all due respect, it isn’t in Sudbury.
And admittedly, the wait could potentially help with that.
“It would definitely be nice to come back to Sudbury…I had really nice billets down there and a great team…but the goal is definitely to play in the NHL next year and hopefully step in,” Byfield said. “I’ve just been training a lot offseason knowing that the goal is to play in the NHL next year.
“But if I go back to Sudbury, it would kind of give me a little bit more motivation, just to prove myself a little bit more and hopefully win the OHL and win the Memorial Cup.
“I would definitely go back with a lot of motivation and encouragement to win.
“But the main goal is definitely to play in the NHL next year.”