Prospect By­field ready for a big year

Wolves for­ward has lofty goals ahead of 2020 NHL draft

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Sports - DONNA SPENCER

Quin­ton By­field is a bow-tie man.

The Sud­bury Wolves for­ward col­lects them.

“Prob­a­bly own 20 and funky ones too,” he said.

By­field might push the sar­to­rial en­ve­lope at the 2020 NHL draft in Mon­treal.

“I’ll prob­a­bly get a spe­cial one for that,” he pre­dicted.

The Cana­dian Hockey League and On­tario Hockey League rookie of the year this past sea­son will likely model that bow tie on the Bell Cen­tre stage in the first round of the draft.

Gifted hands on a six-foot-five, 214-pound frame at age 16 — he turns 17 on Aug. 19 — pow­ered by a high-revving en­gine, By­field will be a sought-after prospect by NHL teams.

“He’s a good player that’s only go­ing to get bet­ter,” Wolves head coach Cory Still­man said. “There’s a high ceil­ing for Quin­ton. He has the pos­si­bil­ity to play, be­cause of his size, be­cause of his strength, in the NHL at 18.”

The cen­tre from New­mar­ket was among 22 play­ers named Tues­day to the Cana­dian men’s un­der-18 team com­pet­ing Aug. 5-10 in the Hlinka Gret­zky Cup in Bre­clav, Czech Repub­lic, and Pi­es­tany, Slo­vakia.

In 28 years of the an­nual sum­mer tour­na­ment, Canada has won 22 gold.

“I haven’t been over­seas,” By­field said. “It would def­i­nitely be a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s def­i­nitely an hon­our.

“When I was lit­tle, I al­ways watched the world ju­niors. The un­der-17 and un­der-18 teams are step­ping stones towards that. I would look up to all those guys.”

His prodi­gious of­fen­sive skills made By­field the No. 1 pick in the 2018 OHL draft by the Wolves, but there was a reck­on­ing upon his ar­rival in Sud­bury.

“When he played mid­get, he had the puck, and if he didn’t have it, he just went and got it,” said Still­man, a for­mer NHL for­ward and two-time Stanley Cup win­ner with the Tampa Bay Light­ning and Carolina Hur­ri­canes.

“Early in the year, when he didn’t have the puck, he wanted to chase it. In ju­nior hockey, if you’re out of po­si­tion, some­one’s go­ing to make a pass to your guy.

“Once he re­al­ized he should slow down, wait for it, and then at­tack and go get the puck, he got back into hav­ing it more.”

At 16, By­field was an in­te­gral piece in Sud­bury’s 48-point turn­around with 29 goals and 32 as­sists in 64 games, fol­lowed by three goals and five as­sists in eight play­off games.

“Right at the start, if we were down a goal and we pulled the goalie, he went out and played on the back end to run plays off as a 16-year-old,” Still­man said.

“As the sea­son went on, and we got into play­offs, if their goalie was pulled, I had enough con­fi­dence that he could play in an odd-man sit­u­a­tion to win the hockey game also.”

No­body in By­field’s fam­ily plays hockey. His fa­ther Clin­ton em­i­grated from Ja­maica. His mother Ni­cole took him pub­lic skat­ing as a young­ster.

“I started play­ing hockey when I was three or four,” By­field said. “I re­ally fell in love with the game play­ing house league hockey.

“When I was younger, on Satur­day nights, I’d also go over to my opa and oma, my grand­par­ents’ house, and watch the (Toronto) Maple Leafs play with my opa. That’s where I also fell in love with the game.”

By­field’s favourite team grow­ing up, how­ever, was the Light­ning. His favourite player was Martin St. Louis, a five-foot-eight player who won the NHL’s scor­ing race in 2004.

“He was the small­est guy, but he was still first on the puck and com­pet­ing ev­ery­where,” By­field ex­plains. “That’s what I re­ally loved about his game and I try to do that.”

By­field trains with for­mer NHL for­ward Gary Roberts build­ing mus­cle to keep up with his grow­ing frame.

“It’s a lot about the food you eat as well,” By­field said. “Ev­ery­one is train­ing. It’s nu­tri­tion that re­ally sep­a­rates you. He’s got me on a re­ally good nu­tri­tion plan. I’m eat­ing healthy and I think that’s trans­lated to a lot of my suc­cess.”

The ma­jor ju­nior sea­son be­fore the NHL draft is a hec­tic one for any highly-ranked prospect. An in­vi­ta­tion to Canada’s un­der-20 se­lec­tion camp in De­cem­ber for the world ju­nior cham­pi­onship is a pos­si­bil­ity for By­field.

There’s the top prospects game, the Canada-Rus­sia se­ries and the NHL com­bine. By­field says he’s ready for it. “I’ve been train­ing my whole life for this. You work your whole life to hope­fully one day get drafted to the NHL and make an NHL team. That’s ev­ery kid’s dream,” he said.

‘‘ He’s a good player that’s only go­ing to get bet­ter. There’s a high ceil­ing for Quin­ton.” CORY STILL­MAN Wolves head coach

JEFF MCINTOSH THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Quin­ton By­field, the On­tario Hockey League’s rookie of the year, will be a sought-after prospect by NHL teams.

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