Quinton Byfield said he will not join the Los Angeles Kings until he is finished playing for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The forward, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is one of 46 players invited to the Hockey Canada national junior team selection camp in Red Deer, Alberta, which runs through Dec. 13.
“The situation is I’m going to stay [with Canada] and hopefully make the team,” Byfield said Thursday. “That’s the plan I talked about with the [Kings general manager] Rob Blake, and I think that’s the best option for us. I’ll head over (to the Kings) after I’m done [with Canada].”
The 2021 WJC is scheduled for Dec. 25-Jan. 5. It would be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton without fans in a secure-zone bubble, similar to what the NHL used for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
The NHL season is targeted to begin Jan. 1.
Byfield and forward Kirby Dach (Chicago Blackhawks, No. 3, 2019 NHL Draft), and defenseman Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche, No. 4, 2019) are among the players in Canada camp with an NHL contract. Byfield signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Kings on Oct. 16; Byram signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Avalanche on July 19, 2019.
Hockey Canada contacted Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and agreed that Dach would be returned to Chicago when the NHL season starts. Dach scored 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 64 regular-season games and six points (one goal, five assists) in nine Stanley Cup Playoff games as a rookie last season.
“We don’t know when the NHL is going to start, but it would be tough if I had one game left and it was a gold medal game (for Canada) and I had to go back and miss that,” Dach said. “At the same time, I’m just focused on my time [with Canada] and if I get called, then I know I got to go back [to Chicago] and find that same level I had.”
Byfield is one of six returning players who helped Canada win the 2020 WJC, with Byram and defenseman Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim Ducks, 2020, No. 6), and forwards Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres, 2019, No. 7), Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals, 2019, No. 25) and Dawson Mercer (New Jersey Devils, 2020, No. 18).
“Last year was a good experience,” Byfield said. “I learned how the older guys prepared themselves and what it takes to win a gold medal, so hopefully with a couple other [returning players] who have that veteran presence, we can carry it on to the other guys and hopefully win back to back.”
There was no update on the availability to Canada of forward Alexis Lafreniere, who was selected No. 1 by the New York Rangers in the 2020 draft. The forward, who was voted the most valuable player and best forward at the 2020 WJC after he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games, signed his three-year, entry-level contract Oct. 12. He is expected to play a top-nine role for the Rangers this season.
“I’m pretty sure if we have news (on Lafreniere), someone will tell me really quickly,” Canada coach Andre Tourigny said Wednesday. “That’s the way I see it. If something changed, I hope I will be one of the first guys in the loop and I assume that will be the case. But we have no news on [Lafreniere] right now.”
Tim Stuetzle (Ottawa Senators, 2020, No. 3) will be loaned to Germany for possible participation. The forward had surgery Oct. 15 for an arm injury sustained while training with Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the top professional league in Germany. His recovery time was expected to be 6-8 weeks, but Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told The Bob McCown Podcast on Sunday that he is encouraged by Stuetzle’s progress.
Canada and Germany will be in Group A with Finland, Switzerland and Slovakia. Group B consists of the United States, Russia, Sweden, Austria and the Czech Republic. Canada plays its opening game of the round-robin portion against Germany on Dec. 26.
The top four teams in each group are scheduled to play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are Jan. 4, with the championship and third-place games Jan. 5.