What top prospects Quinton Byfield and Tim Stuetzle can offer the Kings

Top forward prospect Quinton Byfield playing for the Sudbury Wolves.
Sudbury Wolves standout Quinton Byfield is considered one of the top prospects available in the 2020 NHL draft. Will the Kings select him at No. 2 overall?
(Vaughn Ridley / Associated Press)

For the first time since 2008, the Kings will pick second in the NHL draft during Tuesday’s first round. Unlike that year, however, when Drew Doughty clearly separated himself to Kings scouts, this decision has come down to two almost inseparable prospects: Quinton Byfield and Tim Stuetzle.

Every indication is that the team will select one of the two forwards. Most pundits don’t think they can go wrong. So who will it be? Here’s a closer look at the two players:

Quinton Byfield

Quinton Byfield skates during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Quinton Byfield takes part in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January.
(Vaughn Ridley / Associated Press)

A center from eastern Canada, Byfield has long been destined to become an early first-round pick. Though he failed to overtake Alexis Lafreniere as the consensus No. 1 pick, especially after struggling in the World Junior Championships last winter, he remains an almost certain top three selection entering Tuesday.

In two seasons of juniors in the Ontario Hockey League, Byfield collected 143 points in 109 games, including 32 goals in 45 games this past season. And for a player of his size (6 feet 4 and 215 pounds), skating is considered one of his biggest strengths.

“His size and skating are the first couple of things that are really noticeable about him,” said Chris Byrne, a Kings amateur scout. “I think his work ethic and how he plays the game, doesn’t cheat, doesn’t take long shifts, those are some of the things you notice.”

Quinton Byfield and Tim Stuetzle are considered two of the best prospects available in the 2020 NHL draft, but which one will be playing for the Kings?

There is a belief among some pundits that Byfield, 18, is still earlier in his physical development process than some of his likely lottery counterparts. Kings director of amateur scouting Mark Yannetti, however, said that Byfield has made big strides physically in the last year and that NHL-readiness isn’t a top consideration in their decision-making.

The other biggest questions regarding Byfield’s game have centered on his playmaking and hockey sense — traits that Byrne has seen Byfield improve over the last year.

“He had more patience and more composure with the puck than he did [as a 16-year-old],” Byrne said. “Maybe that stems from confidence, but that was an area I thought he took a step this year.”

The son of a Jamaican immigrant father, Byfield said during a video call with reporters last month that he and his family “all grew up with hockey together” when he began playing as a kid in his hometown outside of Toronto. If he is picked in the top three, he would become the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history.

Tim Stuetzle

Prospect Tim Stuetzle discusses the upcoming 2020 NHL draft.

A forward with the ability to play at center or wing, Stuetzle is hoping to become the latest young star to emerge from the German hockey scene.

Like last year’s sixth overall pick, Moritz Seider, Stuetzle’s stock steadily rose after impressing with professional German team Adler Mannheim. Playing on his club’s top line last year, Stuetzle scored 34 points in 41 games. At the World Junior Championships, he had five points (all assists) in five games for Germany.

The 18-year-old has also grown into his 6-foot frame, now weighing close to 200 pounds according to Christian Ruuttu, the Kings’ head European scout.

“Just the confidence the kid plays with, the skill level he has, the moves he has,” Ruuttu said of what impresses him most about Stuetzle. “He probably has the best edges in the draft this year.”

Ruuttu had heard about Stuetzle — who would surpass Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl as the highest-drafted German-born player in NHL history if the Kings take him at No. 2 — as he tore up the German junior leagues and impressed in international events.

Because of the draft’s delay from June to October amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Stuetzle has begun training with his Mannheim team again in recent weeks but said he anticipates attending the training camp of whichever NHL club selects him.

Alex Turcotte, the No. 5 pick in the 2019 draft, is one of several prospects the Kings have lent to European teams while the NHL sorts out next season’s schedule.

That was the latest coronavirus-caused change to Stuetzle’s summer plans. Usually, he would have spent the last several months flying back and forth to North America for the combine, the draft itself and prospect camps before the start of the official preseason.

While he lost all those opportunities, Ruuttu pointed to a silver lining.

“This is the first time the high-end Euro [prospects] can really just work on their game and get better in training and not have to worry about flying back and forth to North America,” Ruuttu said, noting how that routine often hampers the development of some European players.

In Stuetzle’s case, Ruuttu said, a summer spent at home has been beneficial.

“Tim is a lot bigger and stronger” than he was before the shutdown in March, Ruuttu said. “A little taller too.”