The Los Angeles Kings have their work cut out for them. A new era has begun in L.A. as the team slowly transitions from veterans to new young stars. While players like Gabriel Vilardi and Tobias Bjornfot slowly earn their spots in the lineup, general manager Rob Blake has a lot to consider. Two key factors this year will play a role in the Kings’ rebuild: the division realignment and the readiness of the prospects. Both are key factors when considering Quinton Byfield and his place in the lineup.
In an ideal situation, a blend of the two would work best. Giving the kids time to play while playing it patiently with the prospects should be the top of Blake’s priority list. Still, this begs an important question: where and how soon will Quinton Byfield play? The 2020 2nd overall pick has shown brilliance at the World Junior Championship, but is it enough to earn a roster spot? Today, we will present two scenarios and explain the benefits of Byfield’s development.
Quinton Byfield Scenarios for 2021
Scenario 1: Quinton Byfield Develops in Europe
Building a winning roster requires a winning culture. Players like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, who have won Stanley Cups in the past, will be imperative during rebuilding seasons like these. Having said that, it’s important to not let the kids lose their confidence early. In a division with the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and the St. Louis Blues, it might be a good idea to let Byfield grow in Europe — at least until the end of their respective seasons. Throwing the young guns into the fire so quickly could result in some disheartening results — even with Kopitar and Doughty.
Letting Byfield spend a year in Europe is a no-lose scenario. He’ll have a chance to play against grown men without the rigours of a COVID-influenced NHL season. This will give him the chance to showcase his skill and develop confidence that can be distilled into the Kings’ lineup for years to come. Additionally, he can join the Kings the moment his season ends — which would likely be in March. In this scenario, Byfield gets the best of both worlds with none of the downsides.
Scenario 2: Quinton Byfield Joins the Kings
Despite this, a lingering question remains: what if Byfield is ready? He’s certainly shown an immense amount of talent. He scored six points in a 10-0 World Junior Championship game against Switzerland. When Byfield is on, he’s on. If this momentum keeps up, injecting Byfield into the lineup could be a great way to let him test his limits during a shortened 56-game season.
If he makes the cut, Byfield will likely slot on the second line with Adrian Kempe and Jeff Carter. Other newcomers like Lias Andersson and Andreas Athanasiou can make a push up the lineup, as well. Plus, Byfield will get an extra year of mentorship with Kopitar. The Kings’ captain will serve as a guiding light in the coming years as he passes the torch on to the team’s next star. Risks are abundant this year, but the payoff is a gamble worth betting on.
Realistic Expectations for Quinton Byfield
Whether he starts in Europe or with the Kings, Quinton Byfield’s rookie season will require realistic expectations. He won’t drag the Kings to the playoffs. In fact, the likelihood of him eclipsing 70 — or even 60 points — is idealistic at best. This year will serve as an adjusting year for the future star. He’ll make an impact on the Kings’ roster, but he won’t be a game-breaker just yet. Once the World Junior Championships are over, a better picture of Byfield will be painted. From there, Blake will determine where Byfield should spend his season. If he keeps up his meteoric rise through the scoresheet, he’ll be a lock for the Kings’ lineup. If he falters, a year in Europe may do him a world of good.
Where would you like to see Byfield play this season? What are your expectations for him? Let us know in the comments!
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