Byfield, a 6’4″ center that has received comparisons to Anze Kopitar and Evgeni Malkin because of his powerful frame paired with top offensive talent, trailed only Alexis Lafreniere in the draft. Having only turned 18 in August he is ten months younger than the first overall pick, but similarly dominated the CHL this season.
In 45 games for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, Byfield recorded 32 goals and 82 points. It was his World Junior performance that led to some doubt (if you can even call it that) about his prospect status, as he looked overmatched at times in the U20 tournament. Tim Stuetzle, the German forward with incredible skating ability, ended up pushing him for the second spot but ultimately the Kings went for the true center that could anchor their forward group for the next decade-plus.
By signing, Byfield joins one of the best prospect groups in the NHL. The team finally got Gabe Vilardi—the 11th overall pick in 2017—on the ice last season and he’ll soon be joined by names like Alex Turcotte (5th in 2019), Rasmus Kupari (20th in 2018) and Tobias Bjornfot (22nd in 2019) among many others. Both the high-end ability and depth of the Kings system is outstanding, with Byfield taking his spot right at the top of the prospect chart.
The next question will be whether Byfield steps directly into the NHL, one that is complicated by the status of the CHL this season. The OHL hasn’t yet started their year, while the QMJHL has already had to pause much of their action thanks to COVID-19 concerns. Byfield is not allowed to play in the AHL, though perhaps special circumstances would be made this year if the major junior leagues aren’t able to make a season work. (For that matter, the AHL’s schedule is still uncertain.)
Depending on when NHL training camps begin, Byfield could potentially suit up for Canada again at this year’s World Juniors. The tournament will be held in an Edmonton bubble similar to the one the NHL used to complete their playoffs and could host an incredible group of talented youngsters depending on the status of other leagues. Byfield, a year older and stronger, would be expected to make a much greater impact this time around.