Prospect of Interest: The 411 on top OHL draft pick Quinton Byfield

Quinton Byfield. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The OHL is holding its annual Priority Selection Draft on Saturday and there is a consensus favourite to be picked No. 1 overall.

Quinton Byfield, a huge 15-year-old centre, is the top-ranked skater and on Friday the Sudbury Wolves, who hold the first pick, announced they would select him. A big-bodied and highly skilled player, Byfield dominated the minor midget ‘AAA’ ranks for the York Simcoe Express this season, scoring at a pace similar to some current NHL stars.

“We are very excited to have Quinton join the Sudbury Wolves,” VP of Hockey Operations and GM, Rob Papineau said in a release. “He is an exceptional player with a great future and his potential is amazing and our coaching staff is eager to work with him. Our scouting staff has been unanimous on Quinton as the best player in the draft all season and we know that the fans and the people of Greater Sudbury are going to love the opportunity to watch such a special player in a Wolves uniform.”

Byfield isn’t eligible to be picked in the NHL Draft until 2020, but even that far out it’s expected he’ll develop into an early pick. There’s a lot of hockey for him to play before he gets that far, but ahead of his big day in the OHL Draft, here is some information on Byfield.

Team: York Simcoe Express
Position: Centre
Age: 15
Height: Six-foot-four
Weight: 203 pounds
Shoots: Left-handed
From: Newmarket, Ont.

FAVOURITE PLAYER, FAVOURITE TEAM

In this interview from October 2017, Byfield says he watches a lot of NHL hockey and that his favourite team is the Tampa Bay Lightning. His favourite player, however, is William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Why does the towering Byfield choose the six-foot, shifty Nylander?

“I guess I just like how he plays,” Byfield said. “He’s a good passer, always finds the open guy and has a nice shot.”

Watch the video to find out what Byfield eats for his pre-game meal, what kind of music he likes, and who his celebrity crush is.

COMPARABLE TO SOME NHL STARS?

Byfield put up huge totals in the Eastern AAA Minor Midget League, leading all scorers with 48 goals and 92 points in 34 games — good for a 22-point lead on the second-highest scorer.

“He’s a big horse who really has all the tools you want,” scout Mark Seidel told the Peterborough Examiner this week. “He can skate, make plays, shoot the puck. He’s a guy who really was a man amongst boys at times this year amongst his peers. He’s able to control games. At times his York-Simcoe team would be down a couple of goals and he’d really crank it up in the third and get three. He was dominant at times and is the best player in the draft.”

Byfield’s 2.71 points-per-game rate is the third-best in league history dating back to the 1999-2000 season and is bested by only Steven Stamkos (2.98) and Taylor Hall (2.88). The next most-notable current NHLer from the Eastern League is Matt Duchene, who converted at a 2.04 rate in 2006-07. In the Greater Toronto Minor Midget Hockey League, the two highest scorers on record are Sam Gagner (2.57 PPG) and John Tavares (2.19).

The extra dimension Byfield has that these other stars don’t is enormous size. At just 15 years old he’s listed at six-foot-four and 203 pounds.

“He’s a heck of a player,” said Jeff Marek on the 31 Thoughts Podcast. “He’s not as physical as [Eric] Lindros was, but you look at the way he plays, he’s not a tiger out there, but he’s a real aggressive hockey player who’s got good size and kids can bounce off him. I remember watching Lindros for the first time and asking myself, ‘How can a guy that big be that skilled?’ And that’s the one thing that strikes you about Quinton Byfield when you see him play.”

A TEAM-FIRST PLAYER WORKING ON HIS DEFENCE

In every interview, you’ll notice Byfield showers praise on his teammates and credits them for his success.

“I felt pretty good, but the thing was, I had a lot of help, especially from my linemates. They played pretty well and got me a lot of points,” he told the Sudbury Star.

Added Seidel: “Everybody raves about how good a kid he is. He’s a quiet, soft-spoken kid who really lets his play on the ice do the talking. He’s certainly not a loud, braggadocious type of kid. His teammates and coach loved him and that’s saying something, when you get a player of his calibre, sometimes there’s some jealousy on teams, but everyone we have talked to on that team, from the coach and manager on down, simply loved the kid.”

Byfield said he started his hockey life as a defenceman (“I was more offensive”) but by Novice he had made the switch up to forward. This, perhaps, is where his defensive roots come from and why its an area he strives to improve.

“I’m more about all-around, offensively, but I like to play defence also,” he said. “I want to play my own style, speed, physical and also use my teammates a lot.”

And a nightmare for his opponents is that he wants to get more physical by the time he reaches the OHL.

“Gotta back off the defenders more,” he said. “Think they gotta be more scared of me and then it’ll be easier to get more pucks.”

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