Quinton Byfield’s stated goal is to make the Los Angeles Kings’ roster this season, but he doesn’t plan to leave Sudbury behind.
Though a player with Byfield’s talent and tenacity may have succeeded almost anywhere, he’s grateful for his time with the Sudbury Wolves, which he sees as key step in his transformation from raw minor hockey grad to second-overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.
“It has helped my career quite a bit,” said Byfield, reached at his family home in Newmarket, Ont. on Wednesday evening, roughly 24 hours after he was drafted.
Once again wearing the eye-catching white suit jacket and black bowtie that had been his draft-night outfit, he had a steady stream of interviews and Zoom calls on Wednesday afternoon and evening.
Despite heavy demands on his time, however, he was sure to make time for media back in the Nickel City, and made a point of singing the praises of locals who had an impact on his development — from head coach Cory Stillman and his staff, who worked to make Byfield a two-way player, to billets Rick and Mandy Waugh.
“My development, my defensive game, learning to play on both sides of the puck, I think they really helped me with that, but also, coming to Sudbury two years ago as a 16-year-old kid, moving away from home for the first time, that was something new to me, but I was able to stay with the greatest billets ever and they really made me feel at home. It was just a great place in Sudbury for me.”
“The team is definitely something I’ll remember, for sure,” Byfield said. “I’m still pretty close with a lot of them and a couple are probably my closest buddies now. We live pretty close together and we hang out quite a bit, go golfing, so whether I’m playing in Sudbury or not, I’ll definitely still keep in contact with them and during the summers, I’ll still hang out with those guys.
“It definitely made a lot more friendships for life.”
There is a chance that Byfield could return to the Wolves, especially if the NHL starts its season considerably later than the OHL, and if so, he’d welcome the chance to pursue a championship. That hasn’t been his focus this off-season, however, and he remains confident that he’ll be ready to battle for a roster spot when the Kings open camp.
“I think it’s what I have been doing throughout all of quarantine,” Byfield said. “I have just been working out, watching some of my old games and clips, to see what I could have done, some other plays I could do and to try to get those into my game. I have been working out a ton, skating a lot, focusing on putting on more weight, getting stronger and faster, and I have had a lot of time to do that, maybe six months now, so I think I’ll be ready to go.”
Byfield has also been grateful to spend so much time with his loved ones. His mother Nicole, father Clinton and sister Chloe, along with a handful of close relatives and friends, were all at Byfield’s home on Tuesday night when he heard Kings general manager Rob Blake announce him as the second pick in the draft.
Seconds later, he was showered with confetti, and swept into the arms of his proud parents.
It was a change from the usual draft setup, to be sure, but no less special.
“Despite the circumstances, I still think it turned out really well, getting to share that moment with all of my family members,” Byfield said. “They have all been my biggest supporters, so it was really nice to be close with them and to celebrate this time with them.
“It just felt really good.”