Like fellow WHL alumnus Troy Brouwer, Byfuglien literally came out of nowhere as a 8th round draft pick of Chicago in 2003 to emerge as a legitimate NHL prospect, if not a potential top-4 defenseman.
At Prince George in the WHL, his numbers were typically comparable with much more highly touted defensemen Dion Phaneuf, Cam Barker and Brent Seabrook. In 2002-2003, he scored 9 goals, 28 assists and registered 74 penalty minutes. The following season, his numbers were 16 goals, 29 assists, and 137 PIM. The Blackhawks signed Byfuglien in 2005 and assigned him to Norfolk, where he played well overall, earning a berth in the AHL all-star classic in two consecutive seasons.
He has made a few brief appearances with the parent club in both 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.
Talent AnalysisA true diamond in the rough, many scouts recognized Byfuglien’s exceptional physical skills in his draft year, but shyed away due to his horrible physical conditioning. At that time, he weighed 275 pounds and had a very high bodyfat percentage.
To his credit, between 2005 and 2006, he literally transformed his physique and has become actually a bit of a gym rat.
Byfuglien has a booming point shot, measured in excess of 100 MPH. He has also shown unusual puck skills and offensive instincts, with the ability to adeptly man the point on an NHL power play. Another big plus to Byfuglien’s game is his sheer strength and physical presence; he delivers open ice hits that can really only be compared to those of Scott Stevens.
The downside of his game is poor or inconsistent positioning in the defensive zone— things he had been able to get away with until playing in the NHL.