The Los Angeles Kings signed second-overall pick Quinton Byfield to an entry-level contract yesterday. Now the question becomes whether or not he’ll make the jump to the NHL right away.
This article topic comes from a poll I did yesterday, where I asked readers whether or not they thought Byfield would spend the season in the NHL, to which 54 per cent of readers voted that he would not spend the year with the Kings.
For starters, the majority of recent second-overall picks have made the jump to the NHL right away and considering Byfield stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs nearly 215 pounds, he’s certainly physically mature enough to do so. On top of that, there may not be a ton of room for Byfield to grow as a player in the OHL, based on the quality of competition. That said, Byfield was one of the younger players in the draft and it could simply be an opportunity to give him a bit more time to touch-up certain aspects of his game before making the jump to the NHL.
From the Kings’ point of view, they do have quite a bit of young center depth right now, which could also be factored in as a reason to hold off on bringing Byfield up just yet. Anze Kopitar will still slot in as the team’s first-line center, but then 21-year-old Gabriel Vilardi is a good bet to center the second line. Blake Lizotte is still just 22 years old and could be a quality third-line center, while Mike Amadio, who’s 24 years old, is capable on the fourth line. Plus, there’s a great chance we see Alex Turcotte up with the Kings before the year is through as well. While Byfield is a good enough player to make room for, it could be a smart move to gradually introduce younger players, rather than throwing the likes of Byfield, Vilardi and Turcotte into the lineup within a short period of time. Plus, there's no harm in letting Byfield's entry-level contract slide for a year.
Realistically, Byfield will likely get a nine-game trial run and much of the decision will probably be based on that. He’s a good enough player to make the jump and find success, it’s just a matter of whether the Kings feel that’s best for his development.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
If Quinton Byfield does spend the year with the Kings, what do you think his role would be?