LA Kings vs. Ducks: Three takeaways in Quinton Byfield’s debut

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports) /

The LA Kings lost a heartbreaker in Quinton Byfield’s debut, but the 18-year-old’s debut was considered a success. Here were three takeaways from the contest.

A build-up since the LA Kings drafted him with the second-overall pick back on October 6 of last year, Quinton Byfield made his highly-anticipated NHL debut on Wednesday night. The Kings jumped out to a 2-0 lead, with goals from Gabe Vilardi and Adrian Kempe in the second period. But the Ducks responded with two goals of their own, and Cam Fowler‘s goal with 1:01 remaining in regulation secured a victory for the visitors donned in orange jerseys.

The Kings, of course, were sporting the Gretzky-era jerseys, the first of a three-game stretch in which they will wear them.

Question for you readers: Do you like them better than the Reverse Retros?

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Here were three takeaways from the Kings 3-2 loss on Wednesday evening.

1. Byfield looked like he belonged

You wouldn’t have known it was Quinton Byfield’s first NHL game. Despite a couple of turnovers, he looked comfortable on the ice, displaying excellent visions, particularly on a no-look, backhand pass against the end boards toward Trevor Moore, who was crashing the net.

In his first shift, Byfield hopped over the sideboards with a wealth of support from his teammates that you could hear on the broadcast.

The 18-year-old saw a little bit of everything in his debut. He played on the power play, penalty kill, took faceoffs, and even committed his first penalty. Anze Kopitar and Byfield on the first powerplay unit was fun to watch. A who’s-who for terrific vision, with the LA Kings captain trying to hit Byfield through the slot, who was darting toward the net on the second power play opportunity.

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“He is going to play in the league for a lot of years by the look of it tonight,” Todd McLellan said of Byfield following the Kings 3-2 loss. “He’s going to take many, many faceoffs. We certainly believe he can win his share. The fact he had a positive night tonight is a good start.”

2. Vilardi finally scores and Lias Andersson returns to the lineup

As noted, Gabe Vilardi tallied the game’s first goal at the 4:50 mark of the second period. The goal not only ended a long drought for the Kings on the powerplay, but it ended a 23-game goalless streak for the 21-year-old Vilardi. The camera panned to the Kings centerman after the goal, and I couldn’t tell if he was more relieved to get back into the scoring column or frustrated with how his season has gone.

Lias Andersson also made his triumphant return to the lineup, his first game since April 2. While he came away with no points and a -1 rating, the 22-year-old had two point-blank chances in front of Ducks netminder John Gibson in the first period.

“I got a couple of good looks there, got them rolling a little bit,” Andersson said during the first intermission. “I gotta bury both of those. A little disappointed, but just gotta keep going here, and hopefully, continue to be in their end.”

3. Two-goal struggles

Throw out the last two victories over the Anaheim Ducks, and the LA Kings haven’t scored more than two goals since April 10, a 4-2 victory of the San Jose Sharks. Since March 1, the Kings have averaged just 2.44 goals per game, 28th in the league, compared to 2.95 before March 1, 16th in the league.

It’s been a tough grind for the Kings over these last two months, losing another veteran presence in Jeff Carter in the process. But, the primary reason the team’s scoring is down is due to the lack of powerplay conversions. As noted, the Kings tallied a powerplay goal on Wednesday, but they went a 1-for-5 on the man advantage. Dating back to April 1, the Kings are 4-for-36 on the powerplay and averaging 2.31 goals per game.

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LA Kings Schedule

The Kings and Ducks are at the halfway point of their four-game home and home series, with the series shifting to the Honda Center on Friday night. Puck drop is set for 7 pm PT.