Welcome back to Shift Work! The series where I take a look at a draft-eligible player and breakdown a game tape. I’ll be bringing you some comprehensive breakdowns of a player’s game as we go over an entire game of tape from a player. We will be focusing in on that player’s shifts and getting a peek at what the average game of that player looks like. We won’t cover every shift, but we will go over most of the shifts that the player played an active role in. We will be highlighting a lot of things that scouts and evaluators look for when they are watching a player’s game.
I couldn’t do this nearly as easy if it weren’t for collaboration with Prospect Shifts. The subscription-based website ($5/$10 options available) that takes a draft-eligible player and produces a video with only that player’s shifts. It cuts out the rest of the game, the commercials and intermissions making it much less time consuming to get a quick view on a player for scouts, writers and analysts alike.
Today’s subject is Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. With the size, speed and strength combination of Byfield, scouts and analysts alike have been intrigued and impressed for years. Pegged as a high selection in the 2020 Draft for at least a few years, there has been a lot of pressure and expectations surrounding the young Sudbury center and he has delivered at every turn. So what makes the rising star the player he is? What makes Quinton Byfield one of the only players who can reasonably unseat Alexis Lafreniere from the top choice in June? Let’s dive into Byfield’s recent game against the Guelph Storm to see exactly who he is as a player.
Below we see Byfield (#55 in blue) take his first shift of the game. As he circles the offensive zone, the puck is being fought for along the boards. As he skates to the top of the circle to provide support, he covers for the pinching defender. The play turns around and Byfield does a good job of tracking back, skating backward and serviceably playing the pass option on a two-on-two rush.
After making the good defensive play, Byfield finishes the second half of his shift strong as well. Below he can be seen forechecking, using his massive wingspan and his long stick to close off passing lanes, forcing the defender back leading to a weak pass. He is able to strip the pass-recipient of the puck and feed it to a late joining teammate. He then follows the play up the boards, stripping the Guelph player of the puck yet again. He uses his size to protect the puck which eventually works its way to the point for a long shot. This is a strong shift by Byfield to start the game.
Byfield’s second shift of the game does an excellent job of showcasing Byfield’s advanced skating and good 200-foot game yet again. With Byfield just joining the Wolves in the offensive zone from the bench, the puck is turned over and the Strom skate away on an odd-man rush. Byfield has the acceleration, top speed and compete level that it takes to not only chase down the attacking player from behind and knock the puck off his stick but also to turn around, transition the puck from defensive zone to offensive zone and start a play that ultimately doesn;t result to much more than a good example of Byfield’s complete toolset.
Byfield is again forced to play a defensive role after jumping on the ice as the puck is turned over. He does a good job of shadowing the forward in the middle of the ice and then lifting his stick as the pass came through. This helps lead to another play where Byfield gets the puck in transition, being relied upon for a clean zone entry. He does so by backing off the defender with his speed. He attempts to get a shot off that is blocked and then he tracks the puck and gets it back in his possession. His persistence on the puck and desire to have possession is evident early in this game.
After a few low-event shifts for Byfield and company, he is forced into action as the lone forward on a 3-man penalty kill. He does some solid work here as the high man on the triangle. When the puck does come loose along the boards, Byfield wins the race to the loose puck and forces the Guelph power play to retreat, allowing for a fresh set of penalty killers out onto the ice.
Byfield’s first shift of the second frame comes on the powerplay where he plays the left half wall. He does a good job of cutting off a pass to the middle of the ice that was meant to be cleared and holds the puck in the attacking zone. He distributes the puck down low again, pushing the attack towards the net. He again prevents a puck exiting the zone at the end of his shift but it hit the net on the way out so the play was blown dead.
Now at four-on-four, Byfield leads the rotating forecheck. He does a good job of making himself big, using his large frame to disrupt the forward momentum of the opposition. He gets caught a little bit towards the end of his shift but he does a good job of getting his stick in position to get enough of the pass to force the attacker to the outside while he covered the slot.
Byfield’s next shift is one example of one area that has been nitpicked by some. He shows great speed through the neutral zone where he is able to pull away from defenders and enter the zone cleanly with a clear path to the net as the lone defender is attempting to take away the pass. This is where you would like to see Byfield be aggressive and drive to the net, make a move and tuck the puck behind the goalie but instead, he tries to throw a changeup and slows his speed and makes a pass. He needs to be aggressive and attack an opening like the with his physicality, size, and speed. He has more than enough skill to get himself into a better position to score.
Byfield has very good vision when he is on the ice and the power play shift below is a perfect example of how his vision and elite puck skills can affect a shift. Byfield plays the half wall again with the man advantage and identifies the open man across the ice. He is able to get himself into a position to open up a lane and fires a pinpoint pass onto the stick of his teammate. He then collects the rebound and fires another tape-to-tape pass, this time through an even tighter lane. This high-end passing ability keeps opponents honest when having to defend Byfield.
The clip below shows a bit of an outlier shift where Byfield seemingly puts little effort into playing defense. He floats just above the play for most of the clip before finally deciding that he needed to take control of the matter and skates below the goal line to retrieve the puck and flip it to center ice. This isn’t a typical play for Byfield but it is something that seemingly creeps into Byfield’s game once or twice a game.
Byfield’s next shift comes on the power play. Below he can be seen taking the puck from behind his won net to the back of the opposition’s net. He is able to use his powerful stride to get from one end of the ice to the other with ease. He loses the puck but his team retains possession and you can see Byfield hovering around the backside of the net, waiting for a pass in a dangerous spot.
The following play is an example of how dangerous Byfield can be when he drives to the net and keeps his feet moving as he attacks. As he enters the attacking zone with the puck, he makes a move inside and drives to the net. As he stickhandles through traffic he is high-sticked and draws a penalty but still gets a chance on net.
Byfield get a goal in the shift below. It starts with a footrace to the corner where he wins the puck battles twice. He does a great job of getting the puck on the cycle, moving it around the offensive zone. After getting the puck behind the net and passing it down the half wall, Byfield rotates to the edge of the faceoff circle where he fires a snapshot one-timer past the goalie.
After closing the middle frame with a goal to give the Wolves the lead, Byfield began the period on the penalty kill. He follows the puck carrier through the neutral zone preventing a drop pass. Once in the defensive zone, Byfield does a good job of using his long stick to get into passing lanes, throwing passes off just a bit. He eventually gets his stick on the puck and the Wolves are able to clear it because of it.
The area of Byfield’s game that I feel doesn’t get talked about nearly enough is his defensive awareness. He rarely misses a blue line coverage in the offensive zone which routinely puts him in the position of defending a rush as a defenseman. In the video below he does this yet again, covering the pinching blueliner and making a strong play positionally in the defensive end.
Byfield’s vision of the ice and ability to anticipate plays is on display in the clip below. Byfield starts the shift by getting a long stretch pass at the offensive blue line. Then he starts a give-and-go with a touch pass back and fouth as they entered the zone before Byfield sets up the trailing attacker. He then acts as a distributor from the point, facilitating a nice scoring chance.
In the clip below, Byfield does a good job of finding a soft spot in the offensive zone, getting to the middle of the ice. He then gets a good deflection on the net but the play doesn’t result is much more than that.
In his final second to last shift of the game, Byfield collects an assist after he collected the puck in a scrum off of the faceoff and exits the defensive zone before passing it off. Byfield collects his second point of the night in a strong effort.
Byfield’s final shift was a faceoff with nothing more than a few seconds on the clock before ending the game. Byfield finished the game with a goal and an assist, 50% in the faceoff circle and more than a few shifts where he showcased his talent.
Review and Analysis
Quinton Byfield can be a dominant player at times. He has a dangerous combination of size, speed, strength, and skill. He is often able to out skate an opponent to win a puck race and then he can out muscle his way to the net front. Byfield is dangerous when he is playing aggressively and if he can continue to bring that out in his game more, he can be a dominant player at the next level as well. He already possesses the hockey IQ and vision to compete at the next level as well as an NHL-ready shot. Offensively, Byfield’s game is special because of his highly advanced puck skills and skating while also being a 6’4″, 215lbs power forward. Defensively, Byfield’s quietly been a solid 200-foot player who has good instincts and the ability to play on the penalty kill. His game is complete and effective. He should translate to the NHL quite well early on in his career.
Byfield owns one of the most intriguing combinations of physical and mental tools to come into the NHL draft in recent memory. He is truly a special talent. While it’s unlikely to happen with the way Lafreniere is playing, Byfield is on the shortlist of players who could realistically challenge for the top overall pick. Byfield would likely have to make the Canadian World Junior team and put together a solid showing and he would also have to come close to matching Lafreniere’s scoring total’s which could be nearly impossible to do. If Byfield can do it though, he will be a lock to go first overall.
Thank you for joining me for another edition of Shift Work! I’ll be back for another edition in a couple of weeks. Until then, you’ll find me Rambling here on Dobber Prospects every Wednesday and you can follow me on Twitter at @theTonyFerrari! Which prospects have stood out to you recently? If there’s anyone you want an opinion on or think has been standing out lately, comment below or send me a message on Twitter.
Previous Editions of the “Shift Work” series:
- Nevalainen: Finland's WJC Depth Chart
- Draft Class Deep Dive: RHD Braden Schneider
- Draft Class Deep Dive: RW Dawson Mercer
- SHL Update - September 2020
- Dobber’s DraftCast Episode 6: 2020 NHL Draft Risers & Fallers with Will Scouch
- KHL Report - The SKA Trio, Kravtsov, Kayumov & More (September 2020)
- USHL Report: Rookie Class Outlook
- Dobber’s DraftCast Episode 7: Swedish Prospects with Jimmy Hamrin