Canada's Quinton Byfield readying himself for bigger role at world juniors
LA Kings prospect was primarily used as a 13th forward last year
In Quinton Byfield's Instagram bio, there is a smile emoji and a link to the definition of the word.
The use of emojis, sometimes overused in today's world, can help define Byfield as he tries to make a positive impact and embrace every experience given to him.
Last year, as the youngest player on Team Canada at the world juniors, Byfield was primarily used as a 13th forward during the tournament and didn't play a single minute in the gold-medal game, but that didn't phase Byfield. Instead, he embraced it.
"I didn't play much, but I really felt it helped me develop in my hockey career. I got to see what it takes to perform on the world stage," said Byfield earlier this week from his hotel in Edmonton.
"Going into the tournament [last year] it was really iffy if I was going to make the team or not. I wanted to take any spot just to play and be part of the team and embrace any role given to me. My focus was on the team's success, and that was an experience I'll never forget."
This year, Byfield is still the youngest player on Team Canada, but the 18-year-old centre is ready to make a bigger impact in his second chance — especially after captain Kirby Dach was lost to a wrist injury in Wednesday's pre-tournament game against Russia.
"The coaches talked to each one of us before camp started and they expect more out of me. "They want me to be a bigger part of the team and take on more of an offensive role and I'm ready for it," Byfield said.
Expectations have always been big for the six-foot-five, 220-pound centre who was once tasked with turning around a Sudbury Wolves organization that had fallen on hard times. He helped turn Sudbury into a contender again and his impact spread further than just on the ice — it was felt throughout the city with his charitable efforts helping sick kids.
WATCH | Quinton Byfield discusses being the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history:
Last season, before COVID-19 shut down the sports world, Byfield put up 32 goals and 80 points in 52 games and was poised to help the Wolves go on a Memorial Cup run, just two years after the team drafted him with the first overall pick.
"We knew he was going to be special from the moment he stepped on the ice for his first practice with us. He had that wow factor," said Wolves GM Rob Papineau.
"He's always had a positive attitude and a leader who's willing to take on any challenge. He's an amazing young role model for people. He's been huge for our team and the city. He's going to go down as likely as the greatest Wolves player in our franchise history.
"Every single time he was on the ice you would get to the edge of your seat. Every shift was anticipated and he delivered for us. We're proud that he will always be a Sudbury Wolf."
In a year, where the 18-year-old faced the pressures of the NHL draft in the middle of a global pandemic, that didn't stop him from becoming the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history after the Los Angeles Kings selected him with the second overall pick.
'I want to use my platform to have a positive influence'
When the NHL returned to play this summer, Byfield watched Minnesota Wild defenceman Mathew Dumba show incredible courage before the national anthem of the opening game by delivering a heartfelt speech about racism and social injustice that sparked others around the NHL to speak up and take action.
Making history is special for Byfield, but he wants to use his platform to help create change in a sport that is working hard to fix issues of race and equality.
"Down the road, that is definitely something I want to be a part of. I want to use my platform to have a positive influence on the game," said Byfield.
"I was always welcomed and never really faced anything like that, but I want everyone to have the same dream, no matter their skin colour or where they come from."