Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Byfield makes history in NHL draft

Published:Friday | October 23, 2020 | 12:12 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Team Red centre Quinton Byfield (left) moves in on Team White goaltender Dylan Garand, while being defended by Jack Thompson during the second period of their Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ontario, on Thursday, January 16.
Team Red centre Quinton Byfield (left) moves in on Team White goaltender Dylan Garand, while being defended by Jack Thompson during the second period of their Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ontario, on Thursday, January 16.

Ice hockey player Quinton Byfield, of Jamaican heritage, became the highest drafted black player in history. He was drafted second overall by the Los Angeles (LA) Kings in the first round of the National Hockey League (NHL) draft earlier this month.

The 18-year-old centre signed a three-year entry-level contract with the team on October 16 and will wear the number 55 ahead of the upcoming NHL campaign.

Byfield was born in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, to Jamaican father Clinton Byfield, and Canadian mother Nicole Kasper, who are former athletes themselves.

EXCITED ABOUT BYFIELD

Kings Vice-President and General Manager Rob Blake says he is excited about Byfield’s future and looking forward to his development.

“Quinton is an exceptional young man and a talented player with a very bright future,” Blake said on the team’s website. “We’re proud to be adding him to our organisation and look forward to the next stages of his development and a promising career in LA.”

Before Byfield, Seth Jones (2013) and Evander Kane (2009) were the only black players that were selected in the top five overall when they were both picked fourth by the Nashville Predators l and the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers, respectively.

Kane and New Jersey Devils defenceman P.K. Subban congratulated Byfield on Twitter.

“To be young, gifted, and black and own it, it’s more than a moment. Very happy for you and your family,” Subban tweeted.

Byfield was ranked second by the NHL in its prospect rankings before the draft on October 6. Before his ascent to the professional level, he spent two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sudbury Wolves. He scored 61 goals in 109 regular-season appearances in that span, accumulating 143 points in the process. He tied for fifth in the league in points per game last season, and led the Wolves in points and assists, while finishing second in goals with 32.

He has represented Canada at the youth level, helping the country to win gold at the 2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, held in the Czech Republic in January.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com