Quinton Byfield drew comparisons to Anze Kopitar, and now he has the opportunity to learn from the LA Kings captain.
When Quinton Byfield was chosen second overall by the LA Kings in last year’s draft, he drew immediate comparisons to now-teammate Anze Kopitar, a big powerful centerman with the ability to play an all-around game in all three zones.
The similarities in their style of play are obvious: they can both control the game with their mere presence on the ice, but they can also be game-breakers with their offensive abilities.
Byfield’s offensive game is apparent. He can bully opponents with his 6’4″ 220-pound frame — and at 18, there is still potential for growth — but he can also skate around them with unbelievable speed and agility for a big man. During his time with the Reign, he was tied for the lead in team scoring with 20 points until Arthur Kaliyev took the top spot during the club’s last game.
But, if there is one area that Byfield admittedly would like to improve upon, it is his defensive-zone awareness. After being a -19 early in the year, Byfield has made a concerted effort to up his game.
“I think being a little more compact, not always just running around the ice trying to get the puck back for my team but more just picking up my guy and staying in my spot,” Byfield noted on Tuesday.
While he has made improvements in the defensive zone this year, there is still plenty of room for further development. Awareness is the key and Byfield knows that in order to play in the NHL, any defensive weakness will be challenged by every opponent. The kid, although exceptional for his age and experience, still has a lot to learn.
Lucky for him, though, the LA Kings roster comes with an in-house mentor whose exceptionalism has already been tested and yet has remained indisputable. Who better to learn from than two-time Selke winner Anze Kopitar?
Byfield has only a few practices under his belt with the Kings, yet he has already noticed and appreciated Kopitar’s game.
“Being on the ice with him, it’s just incredible to see how he plays,” Byfield said of the LA Kings captain. “How he moves the puck, wherever you give this guy the puck, he is going to take it and make a play out of it. He’s been unreal. He came and talked to me a bit, showing me the ropes, so he’s a great leader, as well.”
This is music to every Kings fan’s ears: the teacher taking the apprentice under his wing. And the result will ultimately lead not only to the team improving now but also help to ensure a Kings dynasty for many years to come.
This has been a crucial year for Byfield in his journey from prospect to pro player, setting the tone for his NHL experience. And, so far, he has benefited from working with one of the best player development teams in the business to support his game.
Perhaps, however, as he is called up to play on the NHL stage, the most important lessons are still yet to be determined. Still, the potential to learn from and emulate arguably one of the best players in LA Kings history will be priceless.
The Kings’ present and future will be on the ice, and the fans, playoff spot or not, will definitely have something to cheer about.