Is it possible? Can the New York Rangers possibly strike lottery gold again this year?
Chances are slim, but we’ve seen massive jumps in the draft order in recent years from the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils. Even last year, the Rangers had a nice jump from sixth to second overall. If the Rangers do get lucky enough to get the second pick overall, there is only one player that they should have their eyes on. It’s a forgone conclusion that Rimouski Oceanic superstar Alexis LaFreniere will be going first overall, but the consolation prize this year is anything but. He’s 6’4”, 214 pounds and just turned 17 last August. He currently has 26 goals and 41 assists for 67 points in 35 games for the Sudbury Wolves while playing as their number one center. His name is Quinton Byfield, and he is the only choice at second overall.
“The scariest part of Byfield’s game is how quickly he adapts and improves. The upside has always been drool-worthy, but as we begin to witness him slowly scratch the surface of that potential it becomes all the more impressive. Go get those lottery picks. And if you miss out on first overall, you’re not settling. Byfield will be a major difference-maker and a potential cornerstone piece before he leaves his teens.”Cam Robinson/Dobber Prospects
Byfield, born August 19th, 2002 in Newmarket, Ontario, is a left-handed center who has brought life to a Sudbury Wolves club who hasn’t had the most success over the past two decades. The last time they won their division was in the 2000-01 season. Getting the chance to draft Byfield brought life to a Sudbury club that desperately needed it. Before joining the Wolves, Byfield played his minor hockey for the York Simcoe Express, where he put up some eye-popping numbers. During his first season in Bantam hockey (2016-17), he scored 47 goals and had 61 assists for 108 points in 33 games. Impressive. During his second season, his minor midget season (2017-18), Byfield again showed no signs of slowing down as he scored 48 goals and had 44 assists for 92 points in 34 games. After that season, Byfield was selected by the Sudbury Wolves first overall in the OHL Priority Selection Draft.
As a 17-year-old, Byfield had a strong showing in his first season with Sudbury. He scored 29 goals and added 32 assists for 61 points in 64 games.
Thirty seconds in, you can see Byfield’s first OHL goal. You can already see how deadly he can be with a combination of that size and speed combined with a slick set of hands. Can you imagine a better first junior goal? I think not. At 1:12, Byfield gets the puck and straight-up jukes a defender at the blue line, showing off his great skating, before doubling back and rifling a shot past the opposing goaltender. It’s just not fair having someone with that size and skill to also have exceptional skating ability. At 2:07, we see the slick hands at work at Byfield dangles his way past almost the entire Kingston Frontenacs squad and sets up his teammate for a tap in. What. An, Assist. At 5:23, we see Byfield wait for a defender, pull the puck into his feet and launch it by the goaltender of the Windsor Spitfires. A very ”Auston Matthews-like” shot on that play. The nearly 12-minute video showcases a lot of what makes Byfield spectacular, and all of those highlights are from his 16-year-old season. Now we jump to 2019-20 and his current OHL campaign.
This season, Byfield has exploded. He’s already compiled 67 points in 35 games, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. There was even talk of him possibly making a case for first overall earlier in the year, but that talk has since died down due to the dominance of LaFreniere. But make no mistake, Byfield is anything but a consolation prize as we’ve seen. Below is a video of highlights from Byfield from October 2019.
At 1:25, Byfield uses his slick hands to score an excellent shootout goal. At 1:50, we see Byfield lead a rush up the ice, pull up with the puck and put his back to a defender, protect the puck and then lightly dish it for a sweet assist. At 3:00, check out how quick Byfield gets the puck off his stick on a rocket of a one-timer. Just watch this whole clip.
Where does he fit in New York?
If the Rangers are lucky enough to get the second overall pick for the second year in a row, Byfield would be the absolute perfect pick. Yes, Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz, Noel Gunler, and Tim Stutzle are all extraordinarily tempting, but the ceiling of Byfield’s potential is too high. He’s a massive center that can skate with the best of them and has slick hands and a hard shot. He’s the perfect package.
Now Byfield would be the number one center in New York within the next few years there is no doubt about that, but Mika Zibanejad still has a hold on it for now. So let’s take a look at potential Rangers lines next season with the Sudbury superstar.
Panarin – Zibanejad – Kakko
Kravtsov – Byfield – Strome
Howden – Chytil – Buchnevich
Lemieux – Nieves – Barron
A trio of Zibanejad, Byfield, and Chytil down the middle for the top-nine is an absolute embarrassment of riches. Byfield’s size and power combined with the natural skill of Kravtsov on that second line could be something deadly to watch as those two rookies find their way in the NHL. Kakko and Panarin getting to play together on the top line would also be great to see next year. That team with Byfield would be a lock for the playoffs.
A lot has to fall right for Byfield to be in Ranger blue next season. He’s currently the second ranked skater on just about every single hockey prospect list and there are teams like the Red Wings and Senators that are having absolutely brutal seasons who will have much greater lottery chances. But as they say, stranger things have happened and if the Rangers do get the chance to draft him they will be that much closer to reaching their goal of becoming perennial Stanley Cup contenders.