Everyone can agree that Alexis Lafreniere will be selected #1 in the 2020 NHL Draft. For teams like Detroit, Ottawa, Los Angeles, and Anaheim who have a high chance of landing the second overall pick, who do they take with the pick?
Quinton Byfield has been the easy answer to that question for quite some time now. However, Tim Stützle, through his excellent DEL season and impressive play at the World Juniors has become a strong candidate to hear his name called immediately after Lafreniere’s. While there are some other options, I feel there is at least a 90% chance it’s going to be Byfield or Stützle at #2– anything else would be a shock.
In this article, I’m going to compare the two players through three main categories:
- Scouting Report
- Contextual Factors
I’m then going to make the case for selecting each player with the second overall pick.
Tale of the Tape
Quinton Byfield is a dynamic center for the Sudbury Wolves whose dominance revolves around his speed and size combination. Byfield has been the consensus #2 prospect since he entered the OHL last season and during his time in Sudbury he has improved steadily, becoming one of the best players in the league. Byfield is likely to play in the NHL next season but another season in junior is not out of the question.
Tim Stützle of Germany is an electrifying center whose level of pure skill is remarkable. Stützle was relatively unknown last season but he burst onto the DEL scene and played spectacularly well in the 2019-20 campaign. Starting the season ranked around 10th, Stützle’s stock has risen all the way to #3 in the draft.
Without further ado, let’s get to the comparison of these two prospects.
PART 1: CONSENSUS
Here at The Prospect Network, everyone is Byfield > Stützle except Mitch (@Mitche11Adamson), who is a lone wolf with his Stützle > Byfield stance.
As for the Twitter crowd, almost three quarters said Byfield > Stützle on a recent poll I ran:
Who is the better prospect?#2020NHLDraft
— Ben Misfeldt (@BBMHockey) April 22, 2020
Interestingly, in the next poll I ran, 62.5% of respondents had Byfield AND Stützle in their top 3. In total, 86.2% had Byfield in there while 72.2% had Stützle. Just 4.1% of people who responded did not have Stützle OR Byfield in their top three. From this, it is easy to conclude that Byfield and Stützle are the two top players after Lafreniere in the eyes of the public, with Byfield being ahead.
Who are your top 2 players after Lafreniere?#2020NHLDraft
— Ben Misfeldt (@BBMHockey) April 30, 2020
Colin Cudmore does a fantastic job making a consensus public ranking using a blend of scouting agencies and Twitter scouts. I feel his consensus list represents the public view of players really well; Byfield and Stützle are the consensus #2 and #3 on Colin’s list.
As we can see from the below graph featured on Colin’s website, Byfield’s value has remained generally stable since September, falling a miniscule amount. Meanwhile, Stützle has seen his draft stock shoot up in value consistently throughout the year:
Reflective of what NHL scouts are thinking, Bob McKenzie’s midseason list had Byfield at 2 and Stützle at 3. Bob’s list is usually closest to what happens on draft day, though the latest list is a few months old.
The rhetoric being used by the scouts in the poll seemed to indicate Byfield was still the #2 but sliding. There was much more optimism and excitement around Stützle, despite still being the third ranked player.
Of all the independent agencies that have their rankings listed on EliteProspects, 4/5 had Byfield ahead of Stützle, although some of these rankings are almost 4 months dated now. In two of these rankings (EliteProspects and ISS) had one of Byfield or Stützle excluded from their top threes.
For what it’s worth, NHL Central Scouting had Byfield as the #2 NA skater and Stützle as the #1 EU skater in their final rankings.
Whether it be at The Prospect Network, the Twitterverse, the independent scouting agencies, or NHL teams, the majority are favouring Byfield over Stützle at this point in time. However, the Stützle hype train is gaining momentum and Stützle > Byfield has become a common take, or at least common enough for me to write this article.
PART 2: SCOUTING REPORT
To compare the two players, I’m going to look at 11 different scouting categories that I feel accurately summarize how good a forward prospect is.
The 11 categories are top speed, acceleration, agility, size, strength, shot, hockey IQ, hands, puck control, two-way game, and motor.
Byfield is an incredibly fast player at top speed. He also knows how to use his speed to his advantage moving up the ice. That will help him establish a strong north-south game at the NHL level. Here is an example of what Byfield looks like in full gear. It’s a scary combination of speed, size, and power.
How many current NHLers move as well or better for their size than Quinton Byfield does at 6’4 215?
Either way, Byfield’s mix of straight line, motor and agility is next level. pic.twitter.com/jkDsah3hN8
— Evan (@Shattenkirk) March 9, 2020
Stützle is a very fast player who loves to get the puck and turn it up the ice, always looking for a puck-rushing opportunity. He gets going quickly but his top speed just isn’t on the same level as Byfield’s.
When it comes to acceleration, Byfield doesn’t get going that quickly in a straight line. I feel like a lot of people will disagree with me here, but those first few strides are a little muddy compared to his stride at top speed.
Stützle, on the other hand, is shot out of a cannon when he accelerates. He can go from a standstill to top speed very quickly. He uses this to advantage all the time when turning the puck up the ice.
Byfield’s agility is really mesmerizing for a player his size. He can shift side-to-side with ease, can change direction fluidly at high speeds, and excels at cutting to the inside off the rush.
Tim Stützle might have the best agility of anyone in the whole draft. He can shift his way around the offensive zone with little difficulty, creating all sorts of passing and shooting lanes. Combined with his other skills, Stützle uses his agility to maintain possession of the puck and create space to make plays.
I’ve been clipping a ton of Stützle, Reichel and JJP highlights for the last couple of days and I love this Stützle goal so much. Really shows his quick feet/puck protection. #DEL #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/pBsKCg24zO
— Paul (@Sens_Army_) April 16, 2020
Byfield measures in at 6’5″, which would make him one of the tallest forwards in the NHL. Size will be the key to his success in adapting to and scoring in the NHL. He also stacks up at 215 lbs., a huge number for a 17-year-old prospect.
Tim Stützle is average size at 6’0″ or 6’1″, depending on the source. He’s also pretty thin for his size at around 180 lbs. Size is neither an advantage or disadvantage for Stützle at the moment; he is still able to cover a fair area of ice with his reach.
Although he has elite size, Byfield is yet to show the elite strength that should come with it. For him, it’s just a matter of using his strength when holding on to the puck along with being more physical on a shift-to-shift basis. If he can improve these things, he will become a much more valuable NHL asset, especially as a center.
In the DEL this season, Stützle’s lack of strength was noticeable. When defenders were able to get to him, he got pushed off the puck quite easily, often falling to the ice when faced with obstruction. Building strength will be a key for Stützle’s transition to the NHL.
Byfield’s shot is well above average. While he is not a pure sniper, Byfield is pretty good in every aspect of shooting– he can shoot with power, accuracy, and is especially good at shooting off the rush. Check out these two goals below which really show Byfield’s shooting capabilities:
On the other hand, Stützle’s shot is a significant weakness for him right now. It’s below average and is very reminiscent of Jack Hughes’ last year, in that they are both getting a lot of scoring opportunities but are rarely putting the puck in the net. He’s capable of scoring flashy goals but most of the time it’s a weak, sporadic shot on net. Fortunately for him, bringing his shot up to average shouldn’t be too difficult of a task, he just may not ever be a sniper in the NHL.
Many pundits have questioned Quinton Byfield’s hockey IQ. I agree that he isn’t the most calculated player on the ice, but I disagree that he has low hockey IQ. He knows when to shoot or pass and is great at finding holes and soft spots in the opposing defense when rushing the puck. Here’s an example of Byfield’s vision on display, along with his skating and puck handling:
The Quinton Byfield Thread
Games Played – 45
Goals – 32
Assists – 50
pNHLe – 111.5
Let’s look at the highlights.
Look at that cross ice pass to Jack Thompson. Beautiful set-up. pic.twitter.com/tgP8QNHapS
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) May 3, 2020
Stützle’s IQ is on a similar level to Byfield’s. While it could be argued that Stützle is ahead of Byfield because he completes a large volume of high danger passes, many of these come from his ability to create space and his amazing puck skills rather than excellent vision or hockey sense.
Byfield has soft hands when given the space. He can beat goalies with dangles easily and can also deke his way around defenders. He’s capable of making some nifty plays that few in this draft class can make. Check out this example below:
— TPEHockey (@TPEHockey) August 7, 2019
Stützle has incredible hands; amongst the best in the whole draft. Check out this play here where he uses his dangles and creativity to create some magic on the ice. He makes plays like this quite frequently, and that’s in a European pro league.
Tim Stuetzle goes backhand between the legs then uses a backhand toe drag and dishes it off for near goal. pic.twitter.com/laIJpUN7Xl
— Pavel Barber (@HeyBarber) October 28, 2019
Puck control is currently my biggest knock on Byfield. He has good hands, the size, and the skating but for some reason he frequently has the puck knocked off his stick when he runs out of space. We saw this a lot at the World Juniors and in my opinion, it was the main reason he struggled there. He needs to use his big frame to shield the puck more, become more effective playing with a defender on his back, and be more comfortable stickhandling in tight areas.
On the other hand, Tim Stützle protects the puck quite well considering his frame and strength. He does this by constantly keeping his quick feet moving, so that nobody can catch him. His soft hands also allows him to be comfortable holding on to the puck while changing direction at a high speed.
Byfield has improved his two-way game to the point where he is now a good defensive player. He usually backchecks hard and positions himself well in the defensive zone and his long reach helps him cover passing lanes.
Stützle is similarly competent defensively. He’s not an all-star by any stretch but the potential for a solid two-way NHLer is there. His motor, which is talked about in the next category, is a key reason he was able to play sound defense against men this season.
Most games, Byfield is working hard and backchecking hard and when he sees an open area of ice, he will turn the jets on to get there. When he gets in pursuit of the puck, it can be hard for defenders to contain him. However, there are games where Byfield seems to be lacking the extra gear.
Stützle has a strong motor; he’s always found moving trying to make plays all over the ice wherever he can. He is persistent on the forecheck and hustles to backcheck when necessary. He buzzes around the ice all game, I’m fairly certain he never stops skating.
From this scouting report comparison, we can see that Stützle leads Byfield in categories 5-4.
Leading in significant categories like agility, motor, and puck control gives Stützle the edge for me in terms of current abilities. Byfield and Stützle are similarly as impactful players right now, but the fact that Stützle’s categories revolve around pure skill while Byfield’s are more physical makes Stützle’s current abilities more enticing. Either way, they are similar in current abilities and there is not a significant difference between the two.
PART 3: CONTEXTUAL FACTORS
Byfield’s production this season compares very favourably to some recent stars out of the OHL. Here are the top draft eligible players by P/GP since 2012-13:
It’s important to note that this past season, the OHL experienced it’s highest scoring season in a long time this season. In addition, Byfield was shooting at a 22% clip in 2019-20, a high number which may have inflated his point totals. Also important to consider is the fact that Byfield was the youngest of any player listed here during their draft years. Further context to consider is that Byfield was far and away the best player on his team for his draft season. Other players on this list like Marner, Strome, Tkachuk, and DeBrincat had a much better supporting cast around them, which certainly helped their production.
For Tim Stützle, the comparables are very muddy. Some may see that as a good thing, but for me it just adds uncertainty around his production. There’s little history to verify its value.
Before 2019-20, Marcel Goc, Marco Sturm, and Jochen Hecht were the only three players to ever have more than 0.50 P/GP in their DEL draft season. All three of them went on to have NHL careers and Stützle topped all three this season. However, pro leagues change so much over time, making it very difficult to get an accurate comparison for Stützle. We can say one thing for sure though, and that is that Stützle is the best draft eligible out of the DEL ever.
Byfield’s comparables give a greater look into his future success, and from the comparables, that future looks very bright. With Stützle, it’s hard to gain any sort of valuable information from his DEL comparables.
Byfield will certainly stick as a center at the NHL level. Combined with his currently solid two-way abilities along with his size and strength, there is potential for a great two-way center down the line for Quinton Byfield.
Stützle has a slightly less chance of being a center in the NHL than Byfield, but with his skating and playmaking I think his chances are very high. With the way he plays, it makes much more sense to have him playing as a center.
Since I see both players ultimately ending up as centers in the NHL, I don’t see any positional advantage for either player.
Byfield turned up his play a lot for the 2019-20 season in terms of overall play. He became a much better all-round player and showed the growth you would like to see in a top pick. However, after a sub point-per-game rookie season, this improvement was the expectation for Byfield returning to the OHL for his second season. Anything less than what he did this season could be considered a disappointment.
Stützle has improved, or at least improved his stock drastically over last season. Nobody really knew anything about him before the season started. Last season he played in a weak DNL U20 league, which is roughly on the same level as a top Canadian Midget AAA league like the QMAAA. He transitioned from there to the DEL, which is a better league than most people realize. Much like the NLA, it doesn’t get as much respect when compared to the SHL or Liiga due to the lack of young talent that comes out it. However, the actual quality of the league is underrated. At any rate, it’s a huge jump to make from the DNL U20 league. In the DEL, he earned himself a top role and produced better than expected right from the start, which shows just how talented he is and/or how much he improved since last season. Either way, the fact that he transitioned that well to the DEL makes his improvement more impressive to me than Byfield’s.
As an August birthday, Byfield has the advantage of being seven months younger than Stützle (Jan). This is important to consider when looking at the development curves of these two players and is one main reason many people are so high on Byfield. If he is born one month younger, he is unquestionably the top ranked player for the 2021 draft by a country mile.
Room for growth and improvement
At 6’5″ and 215 lbs., Byfield is already a monster against OHL players. While he probably adds a bit more weight by the time he peaks in the NHL, he likely won’t get that much bigger overall. A lot of his best skills are physically based, which means a lot more of his development focus will be on stickhandling and precision, whether that be in controlling or shooting the puck.
Stützle on the other hand, has plenty of room to add weight and strength. This will improve every part of his game as he carves his journey to the NHL. He has clearly grown in height over the past year too, and maybe he ends up at an honest 6’1″ and 200 lbs. by the time he is done growing. In terms of his skillset, Stützle will be focused on developing his strength, whether that be his lower body strength or shooting power.
When comparing what Stützle has to develop versus Byfield, I see more room for development in Stützle. However, both these players are still very raw and likely to develop significantly over the coming years.
Translatability is tricky to measure. Stützle may have a leg up here having already played a season against men in the DEL. On the other hand, Byfield’s size and top speed may instantly provide him with an advantage over Stützle in the NHL. They both are great skaters which goes a long way in projecting their NHL futures. In conclusion, I don’t see any player’s skillset translating significantly better than the others to the NHL.
PART 4: The Case for Each
If anything, this article has showed us just how close these two players are. They are tied in categories led, and there are very fair arguments to have one over the other.
The Case for Byfield
In taking Byfield with the second overall pick, you’re banking on his high upside becoming a reality. Looking at his size, strength, speed, and shot combined with his age and statistical comparables, it seems like a no-brainer decision. In addition, he has continued to develop consistently and has long been heralded as a one of the top players in the draft class, including to this day, as he still ranks ahead of Stützle. In taking Byfield, you are looking past his poor international performances and focusing more on his play for Sudbury, which was exceptional.
Byfield’s very upper end of potential looks something like Evgeni Malkin, who he has notably been compared to before. The similarities in their play styles are evident, and while it’s unlikely Byfield ever becomes as good as Evgeni Malkin, it shows at least that tall centers with a reliance on their north to south style have success in the NHL.
Our very own Sam gives his case for having Byfield ahead of Stützle here:
“Teams will be interested in both Byfield and Stützle at the draft because of the superstar upside that both players possess— Byfield because of his rare combination of a 6’4” frame with the elite-level quickness and quick hands that are typically found in a much smaller player and Stützle for his high-paced and elusive style, vision as a passer, and ability to command a powerplay. There are a handful of valid concerns between the two of them: for Byfield, the centre could become more consistent in his decision-making and iron out the occasional lapses that usually result in turnovers, and the German winger can struggle to get to the middle of the ice and be relatively rush-reliant at even strength. I prefer Byfield because he’s the total offensive package— he’s fast enough to produce through transition and make plays off the rush, big enough and has the high-end agility to take over the cycle game, and with the vision and finishing to be a legitimately elite dual-threat offensive player. Stützle doesn’t have the same dimensional offensive profile— he’s a terrific playmaker and quarterback of a powerplay, but he isn’t going to take over in the offensive zone with an all-around toolkit like Byfield can.”
The Case for Stützle
In taking Stützle with the 2nd overall pick, it’s all about skill. Acceleration, agility, hands, puck control, and motor; those are the skills Stützle has an advantage over Byfield in. It’s hard to pass up on the guy who went from the weak German U20 league to playing nearly dominant hockey in the DEL based on pure skill alone. In taking Stützle, you’re betting on him improving his physical skills while continuing to work on his world-class skill level. Stützle could even be compared to Elias Pettersson, a rising prospect who was also playing nearly dominant hockey in a similar level league and doing it with a world-class skillset. Watching Stützle play, it’s hard not to think he is already the most skilled player in the DEL. Those types of players translate to better leagues really well.
In addition, Stützle’s situation is so different, but at the same time so reminiscent of Cale Makar’s meteoric rise in 2017. Makar came out of nowhere and just blew scouts away with pure skill, namely his skating and stickhandling ability. It’s the same for Stützle here, but as forward playing in the DEL rather than an AJHL defenseman. I thought the Avs made a bold pick with Makar at #4, and Makar is now already one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL.
Here’s what our very own Mitch Adamson had to say about his Stützle > Byfield stance:
“The most raised question pertaining to this year’s NHL draft is who at two? In my opinion, out of the two, Byfield has higher upside. However, it will be harder for him to maximize that potential unlike Stützle who has it all going for him. While a 6’5 speedy center is definitely an attractive package for an NHL team I have doubts about Byfield’s ability to reach said potential. For me, Stützle has that high hockey IQ and in turn will be able to carry that to the pros and dominate as such. I do have concerns for Byfield however as he is not the smartest player and that could limit him from becoming what he could be along with other things such as using his frame and puck control—however that can be worked on and isn’t as much of an issue. All in all, I feel as if Stützle has the higher probability of becoming the better NHLer, but if Byfield can improve his decision making and use his frame better he has the higher upside of the two. My choice: Stützle”
In conclusion, writing this article has only made me realize how close these two players are, at least from my point of view.
However, as of right now I now believe Tim Stützle is the second best player in the draft. Byfield may be the better player right now, but history is kind to risers who display world-class level of skills like Stützle has. I just can’t help but envision he’s going to have a D+1 or D+2 season where it becomes so obvious just how talented he is, the same thing that happened with Pettersson and Makar in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively.
If you want to see more of these two future stars, check out these awesome highlight videos here:
Thanks for reading! Can’t wait to hear some healthy debate over these two players in the Twitter replies.