Going into day one of the 2020 NHL Draft, the Los Angeles Kings already had one of the best prospect pools in all of the league. They have incredible center depth including Alex Turcotte, Gabriel Vilardi, Akil Thomas, and Jordan Anderson-Dolan. The Kings built their draft capital to possess 11 selections going into the draft, including the powerful second overall pick. Up until the draft, there was much debate on who would get selected second overall to Los Angeles, and who would be picked up by the Ottawa Senators.
Quinton Byfield and Tim Stutzle were the two players being considered for the Kings’ selection. Byfield is a large player at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, a pure power center. Stutzle, on the other hand, is a bit smaller, has incredible skating, and can play either on the wing or in the middle. Although Byfield may be the overall better prospect, the Kings didn’t need another center going into the selection, providing the rationale for Stutzle being projected at pick number two by many. Despite that, the Kings have gone with the better prospect and likely the better pick.
Second Overall: Quinton Byfield, Center, Sudbury Wolves
Last season, Byfield played with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, putting up an incredible 82 points in 45 games. His size is not his only physical asset. He is one of the youngest players in the draft class, giving him ample time to develop outside of the NHL.
Related: Our Free NHL Draft Guide
Byfield is often compared to Evgeni Malkin, as well as Anze Kopitar, who he will soon be playing with. There is no one better for him to learn from. He is the complete package in terms of what teams look for in a player. He has elite skating, stick handling, and hockey IQ. He could work on using his size more efficiently, but it is hard to utilize a 6-foot-4 frame poorly.
Byfield has been as good as you could have hoped for as a 17-year-old in the OHL. He has the best pure toolkit in the draft. He’s 6-foot-4, he’s a very good skater and his hands are right up there with the best in the draft. He can break a shift open with his ability to power past or dangle through defenders. I’ve questioned Byfield’s playmaking in the past, but this season he’s shown a high level of vision. He has the ability to use his power and skill both to create for himself and to make difficult plays to set up his teammates. When the pace increased at the higher levels at the international stage, he faded a bit, but I do think he is very much in the first overall conversation because he has the potential to become an impact No. 1 center in the NHL.Pronman: Ranking the 2020 NHL Draft top prospects at midseason” – The Athletic – Jan. 29, 2020
Although the Kings don’t need another center, Byfield shouldn’t be considered a waste of a pick positionally. There is no doubt that Kopitar is going to move on from Los Angeles eventually, so the team is going to need a true number one center to take his place. Although the Kings have lots of center prospects, none have the abilities that Byfield does. In other words, the Kings have a lot of pretty good, but no one that would be able to seamlessly take over for Kopitar.
Byfield could be that guy. This is really important for LA’s transition from the rebuilding Kings to the Stanley Cup playoff Kings. The team revolves around Kopitar, and he is the clear leader of the squad. The transition to being a more competitive team will go that much more smoothly with Byfield being able to take the reins.
The Kings also are not looking to go on a run for a couple of years anyway. This is an important factor to take into consideration when talking about positional needs. The front office will have plenty of time to figure out the winger and defensemen situation. Whether this is in free agency, trades, or the remaining 10 selections the Kings have in day two of the draft.
Kings Make the Right Decision Taking the Overall Better Prospect
When a team has the chance to select second overall in the NHL draft, no matter the team or the needs, they have to go with the overall better prospect. Although it is a good idea to draft positionally later in the draft, when there are players that are the caliber of Byfield, they have to be taken.
There will be many opportunities to fill out positional needs, but there is only one opportunity to draft Byfield, and the Kings made the right choice in taking him. A forward core of Byfield, Turcotte, Vilardi, Arthur Kaliyev, and Samuel Fagemo should sound pretty good to Kings fans. If LA picks well throughout day two of the draft, they can cement themselves as one of the most dangerous teams a few years down the road.