LA Kings: Quinton Byfield “Whenever they need me, I’ll be ready”

LA Kings (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

LA Kings 2020 second overall pick Quinton Byfield skated with the team in training camp for the first time on Monday.

Following his second stint at the World Junior Championships, LA Kings 2020 second overall pick Quinton Byfield skated with his NHL club for the first time at Toyota Sports Performance Center on Monday afternoon.

“Yeah, I mean, I think it was pretty exciting to be out there with all the guys,” Byfield said after Monday’s practice. “You know, just get practice underway. It was quite a bit of fun. And, you know, it was just an exciting time to notice stuff out there for your first pro skate and just getting to know all the guys, and excitement levels were pretty high today.”

Byfield’s season with the OHL, should he end up there, remains in limbo, but the 18-year-old made it clear he would not leave the World Juniors to get a jump on LA Kings training camp. In Edmonton, Alberta, Byfield had a considerably larger role than last year’s tournament, highlighted by a six-point night against Team Switzerland.

Team Canada was the heavy favorite in the tournament, on a collision course with Alex Turcotte and Team USA. The two met in the Gold Medal game, with the LA Kings 2019 fifth overall pick getting the upper hand on Byfield’s squad, who needed some time to move past the difficult loss.

“I didn’t talk to them [Turcotte and Kaliyev] until the next day afterward,” Byfield said. “I think we started talking and then got to know them. But you know, I was still pretty heated from the game and, you know, definitely not in the greatest of moods, so I kind of slept and kept to my own, but, you know, they’re my teammates now, so I gotta get to know them.”

Byfield has been through a whirlwind these last few months, being drafted second overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, quarantining for the World Juniors, playing in seven International games, flying to Los Angeles where he was required to quarantine again per NHL protocols.

In Los Angeles, Byfield will practice with the team for a couple more days before the Kings open their season on Thursday night. Will Byfield be on the roster? According to general manager Rob Blake‘s introduction to training camp Zoom call, the team will not start the clock on his — or Turcotte or Kaliyev’s – entry-level contract.

But the Kings have recently placed five players in quarantine for precautionary reasons, despite negative COVID tests. Of those include Gabe Vilardi, who is expected to have a big role in the Kings 2021 season after tallying seven points in ten games to close out the 19-20 campaign. And head coach Todd McLellan was asked about the prospect of Byfield playing on Thursday night.

“I can’t begin to think about answering that question,” McLellan said. “The roster (and taxi squad) is in flux right now.”

Of course, the Kings were also dealt with some injury news on Monday, with Martin Frk and Alex Turcotte declared out for Thursday’s game with lower-body injuries. Whether Turcotte would have actually played is another decision altogether. They are considered week-to-week, with McLellan confirming that Frk was injured in Saturday’s Black-White game at Staples Center. In the third period of the final game, Philip Tomasino took down Turcotte, who he skated off under his own power, and finished the game, so it will be interesting to see how long he’s sidelined.

The league rules for the 2021 season limit a rookie player’s entry-level contract from beginning if they play less than seven games. So there is a scenario out there that Quinton Byfield makes the Opening Night roster, similar to Tobias Bjornfot last season, plays for a few games, and then plays elsewhere for the remainder of the year.

But Byfield says if called upon, he’s ready to step in where needed.

“I think I’d be comfortable for sure,” Byfield said. “I think they play a pretty, pretty easy system. But, you know, just the way they teach it. You know, it’s I think it’s pretty easy to get to know and, there’s some areas that you know, you played before in the structure so, you know, whether it was my junior teams or just teams before a couple of systems. So, you know, it’s fine, just being able to really just go over and get comfortable, but I think I’ll be pretty comfortable with it soon.”

“Whenever they need me. I’ll be ready.”