The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is stacked. It may be the deepest draft since 2015. (from ‘The Big 13: 2020 NHL draft has most attacking talent of any draft of this century,’ Edmonton Journal, 05/14/2020). The consensus first overall pick this draft is Alexis Lafreniere. Assuming he’s not available for the Los Angeles Kings to take, they need to draft Quinton Byfield. He is the complete package and could be a cornerstone player for the Kings.
One of the Youngest Players in the Draft
Byfield was born on August 19, 2002, which makes him one of the youngest eligible players in the draft. The 2020 NHL Entry Draft’s age-based eligibility requirements mean players born between January 1, 2000, and September 15, 2002, are eligible to be drafted this year.
Byfield is barely reaching the age requirement for the draft; if he was born less then a month later he’d be in next season’s draft class. Considering he is younger than most draft-eligible players and he is ranked between second and fourth overall in most mock drafts, I think his young age and room to develop could be a huge asset for the Kings.
Byfield has the physical attributes to be a powerful player. He is tall, standing at 6-foot-4 and weighs 214 pounds. This makes him bigger than most players NHL players, and he’s still growing. His size makes him tough to knock off the puck and allows him to overpower most players. Being able to out-muscle players and not get knocked off the puck is extremely important, especially come playoff time.
Byfield is a very highly-ranked prospect for this draft. He is a top player in virtually every mock draft. His Draft Rankings go as follows:
- NHL Central Scouting: 2nd (among NA Skaters)
- Bob McKenzie, TSN: 2nd
- HockeyProspect.com: 2nd
- ISS: 4th
- McKeen’s Hockey: 2nd
- Future Considerations: 2nd
- Josh Bell’s June Rankings: 2nd
- Larry Fisher’s Top 500 for June: 4th
- Andrew Forbes Top 217 for March: 3rd
- DobberProspects Mid-Season Rankings: 2nd
This demonstrates that taking Byfield second overall is a smart idea. He is ranked second in six out of the 10 rankings above. This indicates that skill-wise, he is at a top-level. His younger age compared to other prospects and his size make him an even more valuable pick for the Kings than the other players who are projected to go in the top 5 range.
Byfield Is Best Center in the Draft
Having an elite center is very important for any team that wants to have success. You can find examples of this in all of the Stanley Cup champions throughout the 2010s. The Boston Bruins had Patrice Bergeron; Pittsburgh Penguins had Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin; St. Louis Blues had Ryan O’Reilly; Chicago Blackhawks had Jonathan Toews; LA had Anze Kopitar and the Washington Capitals had Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Related: Kings 2020 Draft Preview
Byfield is the best center in this draft class. You could argue Tim Stutzle is better than him, but he mainly plays on the wing. The next best full-time centers (who are listed by everyone as centers) in this draft are Marco Rossi and Cole Perfetti; neither of whom is as good as Byfield.
Center is the most important position to have great depth in, and you can never have enough of them. If LA drafts Byfield, the team would have three great up-and-coming centers and one strong veteran, with Kopitar. Having Byfield, Gabriel Vilardi and Alex Turcotte in the system would give the Kings insane center depth in the future, and potentially give them one of the best center cores in the entire league. If all four of these centers were in the lineup at the same time, the Kings could even switch one or even two to the wing and still boast a one-two punch at center.
Byfield Could Become the Best Player in the 2020 Draft Class
Although it’s unlikely Byfield will do this, I think he has the potential to be the best player in the 2020 draft class. The consensus of most hockey experts is that the best player in this draft and the first-overall pick is Lafreniere. There’s no doubt Lafreniere is going to be an elite talent in the NHL, but people often forget he is nearly a year older then Byfield.
In Lafreniere’s first season in the QMJHL (2017-18), he put up 80 points in 60 games played. These are great numbers for a player who started the season as a 16-year-old. In his age-17 season (2018-19), he put up a remarkable 105 points in 61 games played. This season (2019-20) was his third season, and he put up 112 points. Byfield is too young to have played in three seasons, but when you compare their first two seasons, the point production gap isn’t as big as people would think.
Byfield was just under a point per game in his first OHL season (2018-19), posting 61 points in 64 games played. This was undisputedly worse than Lafreniere’s first junior season. However, Byfield arguably had a better second season. In 2019-20, he put up 82 points in 45 games played. This equates to a stellar 1.82 points per game average. Lafreniere’s point per game average in his second junior season was 1.72.
If not for this season’s OHL cancellation, Byfield was on pace to put up more points at 17 than Lafreniere. I think Lafreniere will be the better player, but I believe Byfield will definitely be the second-best forward in this draft. Next season, Byfield has the potential to beat Lafreniere’s third-year OHL point totals (if he doesn’t make the NHL right away). If he does this, then I think the hockey community would be talking about how brilliantly the Kings’ draft selection turned out.
The Kings Should Draft Byfield
With all of this in mind, I think the Kings need to draft Byfield. I’m a proponent of drafting the most skilled player available, and he will be that player (unless the New York Rangers don’t take Lafreniere for some reason). He is the best center in this draft, and Stanley Cup-winning teams usually have an elite center. He also has physical advantages over everyone else in the 2020 Draft and will be hard to move off of the puck. Lastly, Byfield’s young age is often overlooked, but he had similar offensive production that Lafreniere had at that same age.