Byfield looking forward to healthy start with Kings after ankle injury

EL SEGUNDO, California — Quinton Byfield was forced to play as a rookie with the Los Angeles Kings last season through no fault of his own.

The 19-year-old center, selected No. 2 by the Kings in the 2020 NHL Draft, was scheduled to make his rookie roster before fracturing his left ankle in a preseason game on Oct. 5, delaying his season debut. Until january. 20.

“Getting to mid-year when everything is in full swing and you’ve been injured for half a year is definitely tough, but there’s no excuse you can really give about it,” Byfield said after the Kings development camp concluded. month. “And I think this year I’ll be more ready and ready to go.”

Byfield had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 40 games, scoring his first NHL goal on January 27 against the New York Islanders. Confident in his offensive abilities despite modest production, Byfield has focused on improving tackles and defensive positioning this offseason, hoping to buy more time on the ice this season in the third row.

These shortcomings were exposed in Western Conference first-round games 1 and 2 against the Edmonton Oilers, when Byfield had no points, a minus-2 rating, and a four-minute penalty, winning six of 13 matches (46.2%). Despite being scratched by the last five games of the series, which the Kings lost in seven games, he said he was able to learn from that setback.

“I never lost hope in anything,” said Byfield, who turns 20 on Aug. 19. just having the opportunity too.”

Mike Donnelly, a longtime member of the Kings’ player development department, said he believes growth in parts of Byfield’s game has been hampered by a lack of offseason opportunities in recent years. There was no development camp held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Byfield (1.80m and 100kg) did not participate last year because of a heel injury.

“‘Q’ with his bad heel, he couldn’t participate in the development field, and that’s important,” said Donnelly. “It delayed us, there’s no doubt. … We try to recover as much as we can.”

The pandemic gave Byfield the option to play in the American Hockey League. He played 43 games for Ontario over the past two seasons, including 11 games as part of a rehab assignment following his ankle injury, allowing Byfield to learn what it takes to be a pro (he played six games with Los Angeles in 2020- 21). ).

“Or was it the [Ontario Hockey League] or junior if there wasn’t a pandemic, then who knows what would have happened there?” Byfield said. “But because of COVID and all, I played a year in the AHL, learned a lot from these guys. A lot of older vets have been there for a while, so they kind of showed me the ropes.”

Byfield said he believes everything he’s been through will set him up for a standout season.

“I think I still have a lot more to prove,” he said. “And next season I think it will be much better.”

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