A Sunday roster move, Insiders.
The LA Kings have loaned forward Quinton Byfield to the AHL’s Ontario Reign here on today’s off day. Byfield earned the 3C role coming out of training camp and took some noticeable strides early in the season, as he formed an effective third line with Alex Iafallo on the left and Gabe Vilardi on the right. Byfield appeared in each of the team’s first eight games this season, tallying three assists, but has not played since October 25 due to illness, which caused him to miss each of the team’s last six games.
“He’s back [on the ice], which is a great sign,” Todd McLellan said yesterday. “He lost a lot of weight and he’s going to need to get strong again. He’s going to need some time to recover.”
The Kings being away for a short trip likely did not help Byfield’s reintegration into the group. The Kings have not held a team practice since Friday, October 28 and that was just after Byfield fell ill, so naturally he wouldn’t have practiced that day anyways. Todd McLellan has maintained this season that a player doesn’t simply lose his spot due to injury, but added that in Byfield’s case, it’s not a conversation anyways at this time because he’s not yet ready to play with the NHL team. The fact that Rasmus Kupari has come up from the AHL and stepped into that 3C role has been great and it’s allowing the Kings to maintain patience with Byfield’s return.
“I’ve always said I don’t think anybody should lose their spot to injury or illness, it’s outside of their control,” McLellan said. “Usually you lose your spot in the lineup based on indifferent play, so we’ll see when eveybody gets back. There’s no decision that has to be made right now on Quinton or Ras or anybody else in our lineup, because [Byfield] is not yet ready to play.”
Byfield remains an important piece in what the Kings are looking to do up front, both now and in the future. He’s got a combination of size and speed that is enviable and he’s made strides this season with his work along the boards, making plays with the puck through the neutral zone and in space, as well as his success rate in winning 1-on-1 battles. Before Iafallo’s injury, the two of them with Vilardi was the most productive line out of the gates.
The important thing for Byfield at this stage is individual recovery, regaining strength and energy as he works his way back into NHL game shape. The fact that Byfield is waiver-exempt makes things easier, as he’s able to head down to the AHL without issue, even though he also would have been eligible for a conditioning loan should he have required waivers. The focus at the AHL level is getting the player up to speed, as it is with anyone else.
“I’d like to do that with Iafallo and anybody that’s out, Sammy Fagemo in the minors, Turcotte, we want to get them all up to speed, because they’re all important players and Q is no different than anybody else,” McLellan added. “He needs energy, he needs strength and he’s got to feel good about himself. We’ll see where it goes this week.”
Looking at the upcoming AHL schedule, Ontario is coming off a trip to Colorado over the weekend and will return to California for a 3-in-4 this coming weekend. The Reign are in San Jose on Thursday, Bakersfield on Saturday and Ontario on Sunday to host the San Diego Gulls. The Kings play an every other day schedule this week, with home games on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday before they hit the road for four games up North, beginning in Calgary one week from tomorrow. It’s day-to-day when it comes to Byfield’s status, but the schedule has aligned quite well this week as it comes to potentially working him into some AHL action before returning to the NHL club. We’ll see how things shake out with both groups this week.
As noted this morning, the Kings are off today and will return to the ice for practice tomorrow at 11 AM in El Segundo. The roster currently shows 22 players (13F, 7D, 2G) but with both LA and Ontario within state lines this week, additional rosters moves are quite easy if necessitated. A story on the offensive nature of Kings hockey through 14 games to follow either this evening or first thing tomorrow!