Quinton Byfield had an up and down 2021-22 season with the LA Kings. During training camp, he looked like he was a lock for the opening night roster. He then fractured his ankle in a pre-season game against the Arizona Coyotes, which kept him from making his season debut until late January.
In total, Byfield had 5 goals and 5 assists in 40 games played. This was definitely less production than many people expected, but after coming off a severe injury, it is no doubt going to take time for him to rebuild his strength and confidence.
While there were flashes of excellence from the 19-year-old, his natural combination of size, speed, and skill cannot be taught.
So, what steps will need to be taken for Byfield to earn his place within the Kings’ line-up?
A strong camp
Going into training camp, he needs to be focused on taking control of that third-line center spot. It won’t be an easy task given the amount of competition that will most likely be present at camp, but it is not out of reach given he was projected to be the full-time 3C heading into 2021-22.
The coaching staff also needs to give Byfield more minutes next year. He averaged only 12:09 TOI in 40 games and that number needs to increase not only for Byfield’s development but also for the team’s overall success.
Only once in Kopitar’s 16-year career has he averaged less than 20:00 TOI. If the Kings cut Kopitar’s minutes next season, it will allow him to have more energy throughout the entire year and benefit the team in the long run.
Power play time
Byfield also needs to receive permanent time on the power play. The power play is where a lot of younger players excel because of the open ice and creativity it allows. The King’s power play was amazingly ineffective last year, so why not try Byfield for an extended period of time next season.
Strength on pucks
In order to further Quinton Byfield’s development, he must become more physical. Physicality does not always mean throwing huge checks, but sometimes it means using your body to protect the puck and absorb checks yourself.
Anze Kopitar’s play is a perfect example of that, and who better for the young centermen to emulate? Byfield has the strength and stature to potentially become a formidable presence on the ice, he now just needs the experience and confidence to do so.
In the first two games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the LA Kings, Byfield seemed to be getting pushed around a bit, which is normal for a nineteen-year-old. This summer, it will be imperative for him to fill out his frame and take the next steps in becoming a more dominant force.
Going into next season, if he sees most of his time in the third line center position and gets regular power play minutes, 35-45 points should not be out of the question. If this is his production next year, that would definitely be considered a success for the young centermen.
The 2022-23 season will be crucial for Quinton Byfield. It will be up to him and the coaching staff to make the most of it for the LA Kings’ 2020 second overall draft pick.
(Photo Credit: Debora Robinson / NHL via Getty Images)