LA Kings Quinton Byfield

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The LA Kings’ number one prospect suffered a lower left leg injury on Tuesday night in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes.

This one hurts all the way around for the LA Kings.

For Quinton Byfield, it’s the obvious physical pain of having your left ankle and foot turn in a direction that it’s not supposed to. The injury occurred when he got tangled up with Christian Fischer of the Coyotes, resulting in Byfield’s left skate going into the boards, causing the awkward twisting of the extremity.

Byfield immediately left the ice and could not put weight on his left foot while walking back to the locker room. The official report is that he will be out indefinitely with a left ankle fracture.

For the LA Kings, it’s the pain of watching your prized prospect suffer an obviously painful injury that will most likely cause him to miss time while recovering. Byfield looked very comfortable playing at the NHL level this preseason and well worth the Kings’ second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

It looked like Byfield was going to be in the opening night lineup this season for Los Angeles.

Even still, it looks like Quinton Byfield will miss some time while recovering from this injury. While certainly a setback for the young prospect and the team, it presents an opportunity for others in the LA Kings organization, as Byfield was projected to start the season as the team’s third or fourth-line center.

Here are the five players who will have the best chance to step up in Byfield’s absence.

Rasmus Kupari

Like Vilardi, Kupari is a former LA Kings first round draft pick (Vilardi in 2017, Kupari in 2018). Also, like Vilardi, Kupari missed major time due to injury after he missed nearly one year after tearing his ACL at the 2020 World Junior Championships.

Kupari is fully recovered from his knee injury and ready to challenge for a spot with the Kings. A natural centerman, the thought was that Kupari might be moved to the wing. With the Byfield injury, however, that leaves the third line and even the fourth line center spot up for grabs.

If Vilardi loses steam or returns to the struggling he experienced last season, Rasmus Kupari could reach up and grab the third line center spot while Byfield is out of action.

Jaret Anderson-Dolan/Blake Lizotte

Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Blake Lizotte were originally thought to be the Kings’ fourth-line center spot choices. Vilardi and Byfield had terrific showings in training camp. It appeared that Anderson-Dolan and Lizotte could be the odd men out, with Vilardi and Byfield as the third and fourth line centers, respectively. Neither Anderson-Dolan nor Lizotte were going to be serious initial contenders for the third-line spot.

While it appears one of Anderson-Dolan or Lizotte would still be out as fourth-line center, the Byfield injury at least keeps both of them from being out – for now. Anderson-Dolan is still waiver exempt, so barring any trades or further injuries, it appears as though Blake Lizotte might just wind up in LA to start the season, at least until Byfield is ready to return to the Kings lineup.

Alex Turcotte

This one is a longshot as Alex Turcotte was expected to at least spend some of this season with the LA Kings AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign.

However, the 2019 first-round pick cannot be completely ruled out, especially if Byfield misses significant time. Like Rasmus Kupari, Turcotte is a natural center whom it looked like he would be on the wing at the NHL level. With his tenacious style and slick skills, Turcotte could potentially excel at either center or wing.

If the players mentioned above don’t work out in the open center roles while Byfield is out, the Kings might want to see if Alex Turcotte will be a center for the organization going forward.

Gabe Vilardi

Vilardi struggled last season while spending most of his time as the second-line center on a mostly struggling Kings team. He had trouble in the faceoff dot, struggled to find his scoring touch, and seemed to find himself in Coach Todd McLellan’s doghouse – so much so that he was a healthy scratch for two games.

Going into this season, many thought Vilardi would be moved to the wing after signing Phillip Danault and the potential emergence of Quinton Byfield. Gabe Vilardi, however, has looked like a new player this preseason.

He is skating with purpose, firing the puck, and seems to have really good chemistry with Lias Andersson and Vladimir Tkachev. If this keeps up, it will be very difficult for the Kings to move Vilardi to the wing, and now with Byfield potentially missing significant time, the third line center role seems to be Vilardi’s to lose.

LA Kings: Quinton Byfield will be out indefinitely with a left ankle fracture

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