Cory Stillman took a second and let out a laugh when asked whether Quinton Byfield, his star centre with the Sudbury Wolves, had any areas of his game that needed improvement.
“No,” the Wolves head coach replied.
Byfield is one of the top prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft and has already made a big impact during the first two weeks of the Ontario Hockey League season.
The 17-year-old has six goals and six assists through five games to lead the league in scoring.
“What you see with Quinton is he gets better every week. And he’s picking up something in his game every week,” Stillman said. “Whether it’s shooting, whether it’s passing, whether it’s his defensively play, whether it’s his puck protection. Every time he comes to the rink, he’s looking to improve on something and he’s doing it.”
Most early draft projections have Rimouski Oceanic forward Alexis Lafreniere going first overall next June when the draft takes place in Montreal.
But Byfield is making a strong case early to have his name jump up the rankings.
Even he believes he can be the top pick.
“If I just play my game as I said, just use my size, speed, use my teammates, utilize them, I think I definitely have a good shot to go first,” Byfield said in a recent phone interview.
High expectations are nothing new for Byfield, who went first overall to Sudbury during the 2018 OHL draft.
His performance during his first junior season last year was nothing short of impressive with 29 goals and 32 assists in 64 games for the Wolves. The Canadian Hockey League awarded him rookie of the year honours for his efforts.
The Newmarket, Ont., native said he’s trying to block out any hype regarding his NHL draft year and is avoiding social media and rankings.
Stillman, who played in the NHL for 16 seasons with six franchises while winning two Stanley Cups, said Byfield doesn’t remind him of any player he’s ever played with.
“You have a six-foot-five, 215-pound kid who can do everything,” he said.
“He can be the full package.”
Byfield finished the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer with three goals and two assists in five games as Canada earned silver. It was a roster filled with talent and plenty of names that could be called alongside Byfield and Lafreniere next summer.
Another international tournament Byfield has his sights set on this year is the World Junior Championship in Czech Republic.
He admits it’s an event he’s thought of and hopes he gets an invite to selection camp. It’s also a dream of his to make the team.
“That would be really cool if I could make that team,” he said. “If I don’t, it just gives me something to strive for the next couple years.”
Stillman believes Byfield is only going to get better as the year progresses.
The head coach said Byfield is going to get anywhere from two to three opportunities a game to score along with another handful of chances to set goals up.
Last season he worked on improving his play without the puck and Stillman is getting him to continue to work on his all-around game in 2019-20.
As for his potential? Stillman believes Byfield could overtake Lafreniere for this year’s top prospect.
“A lot of teams looking for big centremen, and here you have a big left-shot centreman who can play both ends of the rink and who can skate, who can hound pucks and make people around him better,” he said.
“I think he has a great chance to be No. 1 overall.”
Here are 10 other players who have impressed early in the season:
Mattias Norlinder, D (MTL – 2019, 3rd round)
Current team: MODO (Allsvenskan)
Stats: 6 GP | 4 G | 0 A | 4 PTS
The 19-year-old is in his first full season with the senior MODO club in his native Sweden. He’s also started the year with some dangles.
Vilket mål av Mattias Norlinder!
— C More Sport (@cmoresport) September 25, 2019
Zachary Emond, G (SJ – 2018, 6th round)
Current team: Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
Stats: 5-1 | 2.50 GAA | .936 SV%
The defending Memorial Cup champions are off to a hot start and Emond is a big reason why. How about this highlight reel save?
— QMJHL (@QMJHL) September 29, 2019
Egor Sokolov, LW
Current team: Cape Breton (QMJHL)
Stats: 5 GP | 4 G | 7 A | 11 PTS
Cape Breton suffered its first loss of the season earlier this week and Sokolov is a big reason why they’ve started well. The undrafted winger is tied for second in league scoring and picked up a pair of goals in the Eagles’ opening game.
Jakob Pelletier, LW (CGY – 2019, 1st round)
Current team: Moncton (QMJHL)
Stats: 3 GP | 3 G | 3 A | 6 PTS
It didn’t take long for the Wildcats captain to make an impact after coming back from Calgary Flames training camp. He’s shaping up to have a strong year.
Matej Pekar, C (BUF – 2018 4th round)
Current team: Barrie (OHL)
Stats: 4 GP | 5 G | 2 A | 7 PTS
Pekar had 14 goals in just 33 games last season, but he’s off to a hot start for the Colts after scoring five goals in his first two games.
Tucker Tynan, G (2020 NHL Draft eligible)
Current team: Niagara (OHL)
Stats: 2-2-2 | 2.96 GAA | .932 SV%
Tynan is a 17-year-old from Chicago in his rookie season for the IceDogs. His highlights to date include a 38-save performance against Mississauga and a 41-save night against Saginaw.
Connor McMichael, C (WSH – 2019 1st round)
Current team: London (OHL)
Stats: 4 GP | 7 G | 3 A | 10 PTS
McMichael had a huge last couple of games for London over the weekend by striking twice against Erie before scoring a hat trick and two assists in a big win over Hamilton.
Dylan Cozens, C (BUF – 2019 1st round)
Current team: Lethbridge (WHL)
Stats: 3 GP | 4 G | 4 A | 8 PTS
Despite a strong camp with the Buffalo Sabres, Cozens was returned to junior last week and has dominated the Western Hockey League with four goals and four assists.
Justin Sourdif, C (2020 NHL Draft eligible)
Current team: Vancouver (WHL)
Stats: 5 GP | 4 G | 4 A | 8 PTS
Sourdif is following up a solid rookie campaign with four goals and four assists to start his draft eligible season. He scored twice over the weekend in a victory over Kelowna.
Michal Teply, RW (CHI – 2019 4th round)
Current team: Winnipeg (WHL)
Stats: 5 GP | 4 G | 3 A | 7 PTS
Teply has scored in four of his first five games in North America after being imported by Winnipeg from his native Czech Republic over the summer.