2023 Kings Seasons In Review – Quinton Byfield

With the defenseman now behind us, we move onto the forwards and where better to start than with the youngest member of the team.

Quinton Byfield took the next step in his development process, moving from a player who played more of a bit-part role down the stretch during the 2021-22 season to a player who was leaned upon much more heavily during the 2022-23 season. Byfield’s season was probably dissected more by the fans and the media than any other Kings player and we’ll dive in a bit more below.

Quinton Byfield
LAK Statline – 53 games played, 3 goals, 19 assists, +13 rating, 30 penalty minutes
ONT Statline – 16 games played, 9 goals, 6 assists, -2 rating, 18 penalty minutes
Playoff Statline – 6 games played, 1 goal, 3 assists, -5 rating, 2 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 52.4% (+0.1%), SCF% – 54.5% (+2.2%), HDCF% – 55.9% (+1.3%)

Jesse Cohen puts the reaction to Quinton Byfield’s play the best – everyone is saying the same thing, it’s just how they’re saying it. It’s either “his production isn’t there, but he’s doing a lot of things well” or “yeah he’s doing a lot of things well but he isn’t scoring”. Likely, you fall into one camp or the other. Few people don’t agree with the little things Byfield did well in his game this season. Few disagree with the impact he had on the top forward line when he joined it. The disagreement is the emphasis placed on goals scored. It’s either the production will come and there’s an appreciation for the overall game he brought as a 20-year-old or it’s a disappointment that the production hasn’t come along with the other things.

Byfield’s season saw a ton of strides taken, even as his production saw just a small uptick. A look at both sides of the coin below.

Trending Up – The LA Kings top line got better when Quinton Byfield played on it. That is indisputable, even if for whatever reason you feel the need to downplay Byfield’s impact. It didn’t just get better, either, it got substantially better. The line of Byfield/Kopitar/Kempe controlled nearly 74 percent of goals scored when on the ice together, averaging 3.9 goals per/60, compared to just 1.4 against. Kopitar and Kempe without Byfield? 2.2 goals for, 2.6 goals against. From January 1 through the end of the season, which aligns with Byfield’s move to the top line, no Kings player had a higher on-ice goals per/60 than Byfield. The Kings massively outscored their opposition when he was on the ice, with his move to the top line one adjustment that helped the team improve.

There’s also all of those “things he’s doing well” when talking about Byfield. First things first, Byfield WAS productive this season, his production just came in terms of assists, not goals. Looking at 5-on-5 production, Byfield ranked inside the NHL’s Top 20 this season in assists per/60, placing second on the Kings behind only Kevin Fiala. He also proved to be one of the team’s most effective puck hunters, improving upon his battles won and pucks won back in the offensive zone, leading to offensive opportunities elsewhere. Byfield’s all-around game took large strides forward, as he asserted himself into games more this season than we’ve seen in years past.

Trending Down – The trending down is a simple number – 3. Quinton Byfield scored three goals this season, despite spending upwards of three months playing first-line minutes alongside the team’s leading scorer and the team’s leading goalscorer. Of those three goals, just one came at 5-on-5, a total he matched during the six games played in the postseason versus Edmonton. His chances for ranked right around the middle of the NHL, but among the 382 forwards to play at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5 this season around the NHL, just three checked in lower than Byfield’s 1.67 shooting percentage. I don’t care a ton for the “expected goals” metric, but by my count, just 14 of those 382 players had a larger disparity between expected goals and actual goals. He created chances for others and for himself, but finished on them at an unsustainably low rate. An area with a ton of growth potential moving forward.

There’s also the notion of availability and while much of this has been well outside of Byfield’s control, it’s important that he spends the entire 2023-24 season with the LA Kings. Byfield was on track to break camp with the Kings in 2021 but broke his ankle in the team’s final exhibition game. He did break camp in 2022 but was taken out of action nine games into the season due to repeated illnesses. Byfield has played AHL games each of the last two seasons and there isn’t room for AHL games in the 2023-24 season. Sorting out his place on the Kings, wherever that place may be, and maintaining it for 82 games feels essential.

2023-24 Outlook– Byfield has one season remaining on his entry-level contract. His first professional season was entry-level slide eligible, as he spent the bulk of that season in the AHL, before his contract kicked in during the 2021-22 campaign. His future contract is a very interesting one, which will be swayed by his performance in the season to come, but looking ahead to next season, he presents one of the most interesting conversations surrounding the Kings lineup.

Byfield’s best hockey in the NHL to date has been on the wing, but he was drafted as a center and at this stage in his development, the Kings see him as a center moving forward. That could change, and his short-term deployment might not match long-term plans, but it’s plausible to see him in either position come training camp in the fall. Either way, the Kings will want to see the player they did in the second half continue to do certain things well, while continuing to improve and develop around those areas.

“I liked him at wing, but ultimately, we still feel he will be a centerman,” General Manager Rob Blake said during his exit interview. “He can do both, but his effectiveness with his length and turning pucks over, I thought when he joined that line with Kopitar and Kempe, it gave us some balance throughout the lineup. That’s a transition piece and whether it works or not, what we were excited about is that he got into the lineup and became an effective player for us.”

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