The Los Angeles Kings recently acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois and extended Anze Kopitar, muddying the future of star prospect Quinton Byfield. With Kopitar and Dubois manning the middle for at least the next thee years, Byfield is the odd-player-out.
Quinton Byfield was drafted second overall in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, and since then, he’s played parts of three seasons in the NHL. Byfield played six games in the 2020-21 season, 40 in the 2021-22 season, and 53 in the 2022-23 season. In total, just 99 games of regular season NHL experience, or a little more than a full season’s worth of games. Byfield has also appeared in eight NHL playoff games, with a goal and three assists to show for it.
Quinton Byfield will turn 21 in the middle of August and is heading into the last year of his entry-level contract. Amazingly, Byfield’s average ice time in each of the last two seasons has been lower than the 15:01 average from his six-game cameo as an 18 year old back in 2020. This season, Byfield averaged just 14:04, and scored one power play point in 53 games.
Whether or not it’s because of trust or because of performance, Quinton Byfield’s lack of ice time has to be a major concern at this point. Byfield, a natural center, has been forced to play wing, and attempted only 108 faceoffs last season. Newcomer Pierre-Luc Dubois just signed with the Kings for eight years, and captain Anze Kopitar signed a two-year extension which keeps him in black and silver for the next three seasons. Essentially, the opportunities for Quinton Byfield to become the elite, physically dominant center he was drafted to be are rapidly dwindling.
Quinton Byfield’s shot, according to EliteProspects, was one of his best assets heading into the 2020 NHL Draft. Byfield’s shot was graded a 7/10 alongside his passing, and his puck-handling was graded 7.5/10. So far, Byfield’s shot hasn’t come along, as he’s scored just eight times in 99 NHL games.
The Philadelphia Flyers have a noticeable lack of high-end center prospects, and their power play finished the 2022-23 season at the rock bottom of the National Hockey League. If acquired, Quinton Byfield would immediately step in behind Sean Couturier as the #2 center on the Flyers, and provide a large, silky smooth power play option on a team that desperately needs one. Taller, heavier players like the 6’5″, 220 pound Quinton Byfield usually take longer to develop as they adjust to their growing bodies and the pace of NHL play. The Flyers have all the time in the world to let him do that.
Quinton Byfield’s lack of production is likely heavily correlated to his lack of opportunity, and with nothing to lose, the Flyers can offer Byfield as much ice time as he’s willing to take. The Los Angeles Kings are right up against the cap, and could probably do better than playing Byfield at wing over a natural winger. The Kings also need goaltending help, as they are currently slated to roll out a platoon of Pheonix Copley, Cam Talbot, and David Rittich, none of whom below the age of 30.
The Kings are also currently over the salary cap by around $750,000, so shedding Byfield’s contract would make them cap-compliant by the start of the regular season. Trading away a young and significant asset in Quinton Byfield would be an aggressive move with the salary cap expected to rise and Anze Kopitar taking a cut in salary on his extension. However, out of all the Kings’ moveable assets on their roster, Quinton Byfield figures to make the least amount of impact as things stand.
If the Philadelphia Flyers came calling with a handful of draft picks in exchange for Quinton Byfield, it would be an offer the Los Angeles Kings would need to seriously consider. Byfield and Matvei Michkov would make for an incredibly talented duo in the coming years.