When the Los Angeles Kings recalled four players early on Wednesday, they included that 2020 second overall pick Quinton Byfield had suffered an injury in team’s preseason game on Tuesday night, which at least partially prompted the early promotions. An update later in the day stated that Byfield was considered week-to-week but that more information would soon be available. The Kings have now fully disclosed the nature of Byfield’s injury and it seems “week-to-week” was even understated. Byfield has suffered a fractured left ankle and is out “indefinitely”. L.A. will place the young forward on the injured reserve and he will be re-evaluated in a matter of “weeks”.
This is not how the Kings wanted to start the 2021-22, in which they hope their young talent can support their veteran core in taking a step forward. Byfield is not only L.A.’s best prospect, he is one of the best in the entire NHL. The big center is a budding power forward who recorded 20 points in 32 AHL games as a first-year pro last season while also skating in six NHL games. Expected to take on a larger role this season, Byfield’s start is now on hold for an extended period of time. Recent broken ankles in the NHL have ranged from a one-to-two month absence – and that is if surgery can be avoided. It could be even longer for Byfield, which also doesn’t include the time needed to get back into game shape. Byfield’s season, once it is ready to begin, now likely starts back with the AHL’s Ontario Reign rather than with the Kings.
The silver lining is that L.A. has no shortage of centers, veterans and prospects alike. Free agent addition Phillip Danault joins captain Anze Kopitar as a strong one-two punch down the middle, while the team will not hesitate to give other promising youngsters like Gabriel Vilardi, Lias Andersson, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari, and Akil Thomas a look in the third-line pivot role that Byfield was expected to fill. Yes, they are that deep in NHL-ready prospect centers. Perhaps the silver lining of the injury to Byfield, a surefire future starter, is that the Kings can get a better look at some of their other young options.