NHL Draft 2020: Projecting Best Fits for Quinton Byfield, Top Center Prospects

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 24, 2020

HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16:  Quinton Byfield #55 of Team Red skates during the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team White at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

High expectations have been assigned to Quinton Byfield's NHL career because of the players he has been compared to.

Even if you put the Evgeni Malkin comparisons aside, Byfield will still enter the league with pressure to produce from the most popular position in recent drafts. Jack Hughes, Kirby Dach, Elias Pettersson and Auston Matthews are among the centers who have been chosen in the top five over the past five years and made immediate impacts in their respective careers.

Given the emphasis on selecting centers early in the draft, Cole Perfetti and Marco Rossi could also end up as top-10 picks, and both may have a chance to produce right away if they land in the right situation.

                             

Best Fits for Top Center Prospects

Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

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OSHAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 7: Quinton Byfield #55 of the Sudbury Wolves skates during an OHL game against the Oshawa Generals at the Tribute Communities Centre on February 7, 2020 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

Byfield is projected by most experts to land at No. 2 behind consensus top selection Alexis Lafreniere.

According to NHL.com's Alex Kimelman, the 17-year-old Canadian center has similar features to Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Malkin.

"Byfield has everything a rebuilding team seeks: Great size (6'4", 215 lbs) and a tremendous skater whose skill set is reminiscent of Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin," Kimelman wrote.

The teenager told TSN he is aware of the Malkin comparisons and has been studying the Russian's game to get an idea of how to approach the NHL games as a bigger center: "That's just an honor to be compared to that guy. He's a soon-to-be Hall of Famer. I'm definitely watching as many Pittsburgh games as possible to see what he does on the ice and how he plays."

Byfield is the tallest player among the top-10 North American and European skaters, and he holds a four-inch advantage over the next three highest-ranked North American centers.

He would be a perfect fit with the Ottawa Senators, who could own two of the top three selections after a trade with the San Jose Sharks. The Sens dealt Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the New York Islanders at the trade deadline and would benefit from Byfield's scoring ability on their forward lines.

Byfield recorded 82 points in his second season with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves, which was a 21-point improvement from his first campaign.

He would be a terrific addition for Ottawa as part of an offseason that could feature a handful of new additions, with an estimated $43 million in cap space to work with this summer, per Spotrac.

                          

Cole Perfetti, Saginaw Spirit (OHL) 

HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16:  Cole Perfetti #91 of Team White skates during the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team Red at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres' search for depth behind Jack Eichel could lead them to Perfetti.

The Sabres have two centers under contract for the 2020-21 season: Eichel and Marcus Johansson, per Spotrac. Buffalo could lose Zemgus Girgensons to free agency, and it may have to negotiate a larger deal with restricted free agent Sam Reinhart.

Three NHL.com experts projected the Sabres would go after Perfetti, who produced 111 points for the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL.

"A skilled 5'10", 177-pound left-shot forward with high hockey IQ, compete and a great release," NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale wrote. "He was second in the OHL with 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 61 games."

Perfetti's 111 points over 61 games was a significant improvement from the 74 points he put up in 63 appearances in 2018-19. If his scoring prowess translates to the NHL, he could be a valuable asset to a Sabres team looking to push up the Eastern Conference standings.

                          

Marco Rossi, Ottawa 67's (OHL)

OSHAWA, ON - MARCH 1: Marco Rossi #23 of the Ottawa 67's skates during an OHL game against the Oshawa Generals at the Tribute Communities Centre on March 1, 2020 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

Rossi is listed one spot beneath Perfetti in the NHL Central Scouting rankings, but there is a chance he is drafted higher after the season he had with the Ottawa 67's.

The Austrian was recently named OHL Most Valuable Player after producing 120 points off 39 goals and 81 assists.

Rossi's all-around talent garnered praise from Ottawa 67's general manager James Boyd after he clinched the league scoring title, per the Ottawa Sun's Tim Baines:

"Marco plays a team game and the way that he shares the puck with his teammates was a pleasure to watch this season. The fact that Marco was able to lead such a talented group of peers in league scoring, while maintaining the highest standard of defensive play, makes this achievement even more remarkable."

Rossi would be a great fit for a handful of franchises slated to pick in the top 10. The Anaheim Ducks could target him as the best player available despite taking centers in the first rounds of the past two drafts. The Los Angeles Kings may find themselves in a similar situation since they have chosen three centers in the past three first rounds.

They might pair Rossi and 2019 No. 5 overall pick Alex Turcotte as the cornerstones of a younger core designed to replace the 32-year-old Anze Kopitar as the team's most reliable scorer.

Los Angeles has three fewer points than Anaheim and would have a chance to select Rossi before the Ducks if the lottery goes chalk.

                       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from Elite Prospects.