Quinton Byfield brings the combination of size and skill that scouts dream about.
Standing 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, the budding centre has the hands to match his booming frame as evidenced by his 74-point showing through 40 games with the Sudbury Wolves this season. The reigning CHL Rookie of the Year, Byfield’s second season has been jam-packed with key events that continue to put his dazzling skill set under the national spotlight, including the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship where he was the youngest player on a Team Canada squad that claimed its 18th gold-medal win at the annual classic.
A top-ranked talent ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft, Byfield recently sat down with Junior Hockey Magazine to reflect on his play at the World Juniors, how the experience helped grow his game, and his expectations ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft in Montreal:
Junior Hockey Magazine: Is it kind of surreal thinking ‘I am a World Junior champion’?
Quinton Byfield: For sure. I think everybody’s childhood memories was watching the World Juniors and hoping they could be in that situation one day. I was lucky enough to be there and it was all so exciting. Playing with all the amazing talent and competing against the best players and best prospects going to the NHL, it was a lot of fun.
JHM: What was it like sharing it with your family?
QB: It was incredible. My mom and sister came over. I had a couple other family friends over there, so it was a lot of fun. When I got home, I celebrated with my dad, so it was a lot of fun.
JHM: How are you a different player now that you have come back and played in the OHL compared to at the World Junior and being under that kind of spotlight and surrounded by that kind of world class talent?
QB: I think I just tried to take some tips from a couple of the pro players on my team. They kind of showed me the ropes and gave me pointers. I tried to bring back all the tips and hints they gave me. The pace over there was a lot faster than the OHL, so I think I have more patience to slow down the game now in coming back from the World Juniors. I think I can impact the game a lot more now.
JHM: Many think you and one of your teammates over there, Alexis Lafreniere, are going to go first and second in this year’s NHL Draft. What was it like getting to know him on Team Canada and this little personal battle that you have going on between him and yourself for those top two spots?
QB: He is a really good guy. He is definitely a character. He is lots of fun to be around and he is an exceptional player as well. Just getting to watch him and battle against him in practice, it really stepped up my game there. He does everything well. He even gets into the physical side as well, which kind of surprised me. He definitely brought a lot of energy to the table even with his skill. He had a couple of key goals for us. It was just nice getting to know him.
JHM: You’re the second-rated North American skater for this year’s NHL Draft. How much does that mean to you to see other people recognize the efforts that you have put in to get to where you are right now?
QB: It definitely means a lot, not just to me, but to my family. All the time and effort that I put in to get into this situation, to get a bit of the spotlight and some recognition, it definitely means a lot. All of the hours you put in, not going out too much, staying at home and working out, it all means something now where I have a chance at being somewhere some day.
JHM: You had a scare with a wrist injury. Tell us how you are feeling there.
QB: Against Oshawa I took a hit and kind of hurt it a bit but I am just taking it day by day and seeing how it goes from here.
JHM: How much can you learn from your head coach Cory Stillman, not just in terms of what your behaviour needs to be on the ice but to understand the full package that goes into taking the next step?
QB: He’s a really good coach. Everything he tells me I try to do because he knows what he is talking about. He won a couple of Stanley Cups and he was a really good player as well. He’s a really good coach now and he really guides me. He has really contributed to me playing more defensively and showing me the ropes back there. He is superstar coach and all the pointers he gives me I try to use in my game. I try to take all of the knowledge that he has and try to put it into my game.
JHM: Even though you missed a month of action because of the World Junior, you’re still 10th in scoring in the OHL scoring with 74 points in 40 games. That’s almost two points per game. Talk to me about your offense and how you have seen that aspect of your game continue to develop.
QB: I think I am getting put out in the right situations and I have the teammates to support me as well. I have Blake Murray, he just came fresh off the draft, where there is a lot of confidence there. Jack Thompson, one of the guys on my team, we are really clicking on the power play, so it’s very easy to play with some players like that where you are just giving them the puck and they have given me some easy points. The coaches are really supporting me and putting me in a lot of situations, not just the power play, but the penalty kill too.