NHL

Quinton Byfield – Where do the kings go from here?

Quinton Byfield – Where do the kings go from here?

Since the 2020 NHL Draft, three of the first six players selected have played in more than 100 NHL games. Lucas Raymond is 95 years old and now a regular in the Detroit Red Wings lineup, so he’ll cross the century mark here pretty quickly. There is also one player, Jake Sanderson, who just turned pro this season after finishing his career at North Dakota.

And then there’s Quinton Byfield.

Of course, every player has their own journey, absolutely. Byfield’s has also been affected by several departures and closures.

Being drafted during the pandemic, which later caused the OHL to shut down, created a unique set of circumstances that allowed him to begin his professional career a full season earlier than he normally would have. Due to several rules about perspectives, Byfield was aiming to return to junior hockey in 2021. He wasn’t eligible for the AHL…however, that’s exactly where he spent that season. Scoring 20 points in 32 games, he was running at nearly a point-per-game pace after his first month with Ontario.

This led to his NHL debut in April 2021, only to experience a foot injury a few months later that sidelined him from participating in the team’s summer development camp. Further complicating his path, Byfield suffered a serious ankle injury during the preseason in September 2021. This pushed his return to the NHL for nearly four months, waiting until he healed and completed an 11-game stint to the AHL to finish his rehabilitation. .

However, things were looking up for the Kings’ top prospect over the summer. He was invited to development camp in July at the request of management to be one of the leaders of several younger players coming to Los Angeles for the first time. The following month, he celebrated his 20th birthday. Then, in September, he he looked like a much improved player at the NHL Rookie Tournament in San Jose.

Everything was moving in the right direction and the positive vibes continued into opening night.

McLellan has big plans for the Iafallo-Byfield-Kaliyev line

Life was great, until it wasn’t.

Not only did Alex Iafallo injure his leg and have to be placed on long-term injured reserve, but Byfield also got sick late last month and has been out for more than two weeks.

Like us first indicated last week, Byfield has been assigned to AHL Ontario for what is essentially a conditioning assignment. For how long, though?

In Byfield’s absence, Rasmus Kupari was recalled from the Reign to fill in at 3C. In those six games, the Kings have gone 4-2. Now that doesn’t mean the Kings are better off with Kupari in the lineup. It’s just to add context to the next decision GM Rob Blake will have to make, presumably in consultation with LA coach Todd McLellan.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Byfield could be on a three- to five-game conditioning assignment (although it’s not really known as such, largely because he’s off waivers — meaning he can move up/down as needed between the two leagues this season). Here’s a quick snapshot of Ontario’s upcoming calendar:

Thursday, November 10 – in San José
Saturday, November 12 in Bakersfield
Sunday, November 13 – vs. San Diego
Saturday, November 19 – in Henderson
Sunday 20 November – against Henderson
Wednesday, November 23 – vs. Tucson

Meanwhile, as far as we understand, the Kings currently have no plans to bring Byfield on their upcoming four-game road trip next week through western Canada that ends in Seattle on Nov. 19. Their next home game is scheduled for Tuesday, November 22 vs. the New York Rangers. Byfield is expected to be ready for the Reign on Thursday against the Barracuda. Combined with the aforementioned Kings schedule, the 6-foot-5 center would appear to be slated for at least four games with the Reign, and then management can assess how he’s doing and what’s next.

In checking with our sources, we’re told the team currently “doesn’t have a time frame” set for Byfield’s return to the NHL. It’s more about getting him “back up to speed and confident with his game.”

Some have pointed to Gabe Vilardi’s extended time in the AHL last season and the wonders it did for his game. Could something similar exist with Byfield? It is certainly possible, but it indicates that the two scenarios are completely different and not necessarily on parallel paths.

For now, Byfield will wear his old No. 55 jersey for the Reign and will likely have to take it one game at a time.

For those still wondering how the Kings got to this point, i.e. why they took Byfield over Tim Stützle, as some on social media like to ask every few months, we delved into this same topic in the following article. It’s a rare and fascinating look behind the curtain at the LA Kings Draft.

RELATED CONTENT:

Anatomy of a draft pick: How the Kings decided on Byfield

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