Know The Name: Quinton Byfield

Our 3rd Know The Name article for the 2020 Draft basically rounds out what is currently a consensus top 3. As we've written on Lafrenière and Raymond, that leaves Quinton Byfield. While there's still tons of time left and games to play, most would agree these are the top 3 players eligible for the upcoming draft as it stands. Byfield is a much different prospect than what we're used to seeing. An August born, he played his entire first OHL season as a 16 year old, and won't turn 18 until 2 months after he's drafted. What really strikes you when watching him is how his size (6'5, 215lbs), and his play style don't match whatsoever. His speed and shiftiness are almost unheard of for a player of his build, especially one that has so much more time to adjust to his frame, and that has a couple more years to grow physically.

While it looks as though Lafrenière has taken that #1 spot (for now), we could enjoy a really tight race between Byfield and Raymond for the #2 and #3 spot during an entire season.

Scouting Report:

Let's start with the part of Quinton Byfield's game that stands out the most: his skating abilities. Byfield is a terrific skater in every aspect. His top speed is tremendous, he can turn on a dime, and even at 6'5 he can accelerate better than an average OHL player.

While the camera panning off of the IceDogs player doesn't do Byfield justice for winning this puck race, what's more important is seeing the sheer power Byfield can generate off of his strides, and the speed at which he can move his feet. The fact that he has both is also a big reason his acceleration is strong. It's impressive enough that we see such a powerful stride at his age, but I think that footspeed in a 6'5 16 year old is even more impressive.

But straight line speed isn't the extent of it for the young Wolves forward, as he can also show us some nice edges that he can use to create time for himself in the offensive zone waiting for lanes/options.
It looks as though Byfield is preparing to walk out of the corner into the slot, but he quickly realizes there's a defender shutting down his lane, so he quickly changes direction, creates lots of space for himself, and finds a lane between two Bulldogs for a good shot in the high slot.


Next up is Byfield's shooting abilities. Just like his skating, his shot is good in every way. His release is quick, the shot has tons of power, and he can aim it well too. I feel as though he used his shot less often as he developed some better playmaking abilities throughout the season (more on that later), but he still averaged nearly 3 shots per game this year.
Before I even start on Byfield's shot in this clip, I need to emphasize that if any team gives a player of his caliber this much time to improve their shot location and get a clean shot from inside the circles, they're setting themselves up for goals against. Byfield notices this gap in the defenders and walks in before sending a beautiful shot in the top corner.
I debated whether to insert this clip when talking about his footwork or his shot, but I figured I'd do it here now that both have been discussed. After getting around one man, Byfield is able to quickly reposition himself to snap off a quick shot, again beating the goaltender on the high glove side. I guess Kitchener hadn't learnt their lesson yet.


Byfield's shot utilization leads me to his IQ. As we see in both clips above, he puts himself in prime shooting locations where he knows there's a great chance of it going in. He loves to look for that lane, and when it isn't present, either move around the perimeter with the puck, or find a passing option. It's a smart way to play in the offensive zone because he has the ability to hold onto that puck and do whatever he wants. On top of that, Byfield is great at being where the puck is going to be, as opposed to where it is, which is a crucial part of being a smart player.

Where Byfield's mind could use some work is his defensive positioning, mostly as a centerman. This season, Byfield split time between the left wing and center ice, and while I believe his transition game is better fit for a center, his defensive game is not. Often times, instead of covering an open man, he just attacks the puck carrier that's already covered. While this can work sometimes as it's a lot of pressure on one player, when this is done on a good player it ends with a man all alone with the puck on his stick. Of course, he has an entire year to work on this in a heightened role on the Wolves and already showed a little bit of improvement during the year.


We now move on to a part of Byfield's game that I think took significant strides throughout his rookie year in the OHL, and that would be his passing and playmaking. Byfield has always been a very capable passer, but at the start of the season his playmaking wasn't at the level of a top 3 pick. However, as the season progressed I started to see a lot more risky passes being completed and less giveaways under pressure.  
Both of these passes by Byfield look pretty similar, but what he does differently here versus earlier in the season is he acknowledges that there is a guy on him and knows exactly how much time he has to make a play before being stripped of the puck. This patience plays a key factor in being able to pull off passes like this.

Where we see Byfield make a lot of passes to high danger areas is on the powerplay. In a slightly odd fashion, Byfield basically QB's Sudbury's powerplay from the left wall. He tries to often walk down that side and catch the defence off guard with a shot, but he also displays terrific vision as well.
I believe that when a player is great at one of shooting or playmaking, making the other one a viable option can be a huge change to a player's game, as defenders need to respect two different things. Here, we see that one Hamilton defender is anticipating a shot, and instead a pass is fired across the ice for an almost sure goal. Byfield can now be seen as a dual threat on the power play which lets him do a lot more and makes defencemen unsure of how to play him with the puck on his stick.


The last part of Byfield's game to uncover is one that he doesn't use a ton, but is still great: his hands. Byfield's game revolves around holding onto the puck and using his big frame to shield of opposing players before shooting or passing off. However, Byfield has demonstrated extremely quick hands in tight and has the ability to use his hands to get around guys on the rush as well.
We don't see it a ton, but it is certainly a viable option for him off the rush if he doesn't have the speed or the room to blow by the defender. Also, what's nice about the way Byfield uses his set of hands is he won't force dekes that won't work. Instead, he waits for the opposing player to expose themselves to a dangle, like we see in the clip above as the defender flailed his stick around. 


Statistical Analysis:

For this article, I'm basically going to use the statistical analysis portion to explain why Byfield's point production does not scare me off of seeing him as a top 3 pick. Before even getting into the numbers, I want to say that point production is extremely minimal when it comes to my personal rankings. I feel as though there are so many factors (ice time, linemates, team strength, playing injured, bad luck) that a players stats can be heavily inflated or deflated in their Draft Year or Draft-1 year. 

Let's start off with the basics. This season, Byfield put up 61 points in 64 games on a very average offensive Sudbury Wolves team, that finished 9th out of 20 in GF. The 16 year old finished second in goals and points to Adam Ruzicka, who was acquired mid-season from Sarnia. 0.95 points per game at the age of 16 is an outstanding feat, and I believe people simply look at the points Rossi and Perfetti tallied to determine that Byfield had underwhelming point totals, when in reality age and team level played a huge role in this.

The reason I believe Byfield actually underachieved this season is how he fared in the advanced stats category. Thanks again to Mitch Brown, who's twitter can be found here, I was able to see how Byfield did compared to his Sudbury teammates. 

Byfield played a total of 14.94 minutes per game at 5v5, which was 6th on his team among forwards, which makes sense because he was flipped between the second and third line all season. He finished with a 52.63% corsi, and not only was that the second best on the team but was also +6.5% relative to his peers, meaning while his team had a negative shot differential, he was comfortably positive. Another interesting part of his shot attempts is the fact that he generated the most Corsi FOR/60 on the team (53.54), but due to some defensive lapses his Corsi Against came up a bit higher than he would have wanted. 

Byfield may have finished fourth on the team in shots/60, however when you remove Low Danger shots, he was actually first on the team, generating 9.4 High + Medium Danger shots per sixty minutes. This number is almost 2 higher than the next best player, and these figures sort of explain my viewings which told me Byfield loves to get to the scoring areas, and if he can't he finds a passing option. 

Oh, and Byfield's passing metrics blew his teammates out of the water. His primary shot assists per sixty minutes were far and away first on his club with 13.4 (the next closest was 9.3). But he doesn't just dish it off to the defenders for low quality shot assists, as he also finished first in scoring chance assists/60 with over 6, and the next best was under 4.

When it comes to skating up ice, Byfield loves to have the puck on his stick. While his possession exit and entry percentages aren't the highest, he has the most of the entire Wolves roster. He exits the zone with the puck on his stick 8.03 times per 60 minutes, and what's even crazier is he enters it with possession on average every 3 minutes (19.4 per 60). This shows that Byfield can be a viable passing option through the neutral zone.


Conclusion:

When I watch Byfield play, it looks as though we have a 5'10 skater in a 6'5 body. His skating abilities coupled with his size are something to behold, and his play style is also not something you normally see from a player his size either. Byfield is a player that just attacks and puts pressure on the defense every single shift and that's going to translate well because he also has that elite skillset required to be a game-changer at the NHL level. The soon-to-be 17 year old is going to have a huge job ahead of him with next season's Wolves roster, but if given some good linemates, Sudbury is going to have a scary first line in the 2019-20 season. The top 3 for the 2020 draft is looking like it's going to be extremely special, and watching these players battle it out over the course of their last full season before being assigned an NHL club is surely going to not only be fun, but spark tons of debate and talk around the hockey world.

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