The second-overall pick from 2020 is on his way back to the NHL. Quinton Byfield has been recalled by the Los Angeles Kings and is expected to make his season debut tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.
Byfield, 19, played six games for the Kings last season, recording a single point while averaging just over 15 minutes a night. The 6’5″ center suffered an ankle fracture in October during a preseason game that stole his spot on the opening night roster, but after 11 games in the minor leagues to get his legs back under him, Byfield is ready to make his return to the NHL.
Notably, Byfield’s entry-level contract could actually slide again if he fails to play ten NHL games this season. With the Kings in a competitive position in the Pacific Division though–currently second behind the Vegas Golden Knights–it seems likely that he would stay in the Los Angeles lineup if he’s one of the team’s best 12 forwards and can help them win.
An impressive mix of size and skill, there were many at the time of the 2020 draft that indicated Byfield actually had a higher ceiling than Alexis Lafreniere, the first-overall pick by the New York Rangers. With Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault already in place as two elite defensive centers, Byfield should be able to play some more sheltered offensive minutes as he gets comfortable at the NHL level. That is of course if he plays center at all, given the team’s glut of other young options down the middle.
There have already been 12 players from the 2020 draft to score a goal at the NHL level, with Lafreniere leading the bunch. Lucas Raymond, who went fourth overall to the Detroit Red Wings has a good shot at the Calder Trophy this season, while Anton Lundell–12th to Florida–is a key part of one of the best teams in the NHL. Byfield’s development is key for the Kings if they want to take a step toward real Stanley Cup contention, and getting him back in the NHL lineup will be the first test.