The LA Kings have reassigned forwards Quinton Byfield and Lias Andersson from the Ontario Reign to the taxi squad this morning, in advance of tonight’s game against Anaheim. Additionally, forward Boko Imama has been reassigned from the taxi squad to the Reign.
Byfield, 18, has earned the first recall to the taxi squad during his first professional season. The second-overall draft pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft has amassed 20 points (8-12-20) from 30 games played with Ontario, ranking second on the team in goals, assists and points. The first-year pro also ranked eighth in the AHL in points by a rookie this season, with fellow forward Arthur Kaliyev also ranking inside the league’s Top-10.
“I think the confidence level has skyrocketed at this point,” Reign Head Coach John Wroblewski said of Byfield after yesterday’s game. “That was his best game transporting the puck through the neutral zone I felt and he’s been building up to that game, it’s not like he’s been deficient in that department, so I think that’s kind of the tell-tale sign of what he was drafted for, to be able to carry that thing 180 feet, support, make plays off of it.”
Wroblewski also lauded Byfield’s progress throughout the season, noting that back in January, Byfield was struggling to find consistent production, as his plus/minus ranked among the lowest in the league.
The Newmarket, ONT native is +9 over his last 12 games, however, and he’s improved in other areas of his game as well. Wroblewski highlighted battle play, and went on to mention developing an “assassin’s mentality” in and around the net as a couple of those areas he’s still working on, but what 18-year-old player isn’t a work in progress? Several great signs in the development process thus far for Byfield.
“I think, when we first started off with QB, he was finding his route in the pro game, finding his timing, the detailed things like being a little bit heavier in battles, one hand on the stick in battles as opposed to when he needed two, all these things still need work,” Wroblewski said. “He’s going to need to keep figuring them out, but the learning curve has gone from a guy that struggled the point, his plus minus was down there among the worst in the league, right at the bottom. Now he’s just, to me, he’s just a dominant player at this point. I loved his game today and I’ve liked it for awhile now.”
Byfield entered this season as one of the youngest players in the American Hockey League, only eligible because of the, at the time, unknown status of the OHL season. With the news now that the OHL will not play this season, Byfield is in the pro game to stay through the end of the season, between Los Angeles and Ontario. When exactly he will make his NHL debut at this stage is unknown – tonight feels unlikely, considering he has yet to practice with the big club, and tonight would be his third game in three nights – but you never can tell. An exciting recall for Kings fans nonetheless.
Andersson is no stranger to the Kings or to the transaction wire, as he’s been shuffled between the active roster, taxi squad and Ontario Reign roster throughout the season. Andersson was added to the active roster on an emergency basis on Saturday, and he took warmups but did not play in Saturday’s loss against the Coyotes.
The Smogen, Sweden native has found himself on that bubble so far this season – dominant in the AHL, at a point-per-game, with 14 points (5-9-14) from 14 games played, but unable to find a permanent home on the Kings, with two goals from 13 games played.
“Lias has been steady every time he’s come down to the AHL,” Wroblewski said. “When guys like him come down, they tend to be very loud when it’s time to drop the puck. They want to prove a point that they’re NHLers and [Andersson] does a great job of providing that. He’s been great.”
The 22-year-old forward has been noticeable at times at the NHL level, and he’s shown in flashes that he can contribute at this level, but at the same time, it’s hard to draw an accurate conclusion about a player who has played just two NHL games over the last two months. Andersson’s last true run of games with the Kings came from 1/19 – 2/16, when he played in 11 of the team’s 12 contests in that span. Time will tell if he gets another opportunity of a similar nature, but he will need to in some form to see where he slots into the bigger picture for the organization moving forward.
Logistically, at this point, neither player counts as one of the team’s four recalls following the trade deadline. The Kings have used one thus far – defenseman Kale Clague – and both Byfield and Andersson would require one of those recalls being used in order to be added to the active roster on more than an emergency basis.
More information to come throughout the day here on LAKI, as we get a clearer picture on the lineup for this evening.