Kings look to Byfield as cornerstone for rebuild, return to playoffs

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After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Los Angeles Kings:

The Los Angeles Kings are hoping the addition of Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, will help them get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a two-season absence.

If he does make the roster, the 18-year-old will help solidify the center position, which also includes Anze Kopitar, Gabriel Vilardi and Blake Lizotte.

“I definitely think I could step into the NHL next year, but I know it’s a really big jump from the [Ontario Hockey League] and really challenging,” Byfield told the Kings website on Oct. 7. “It’s definitely going to be really challenging but I’ve worked my whole offseason with the pros quite a bit to help me translate easier.”

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Byfield (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) led Sudbury of the OHL with 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 games last season and won 51.9 percent of his face-offs (304-of-586).

“Physically, I think he has the ability to step in and play in the NHL with his size and playing ability,” Kings general manager Rob Blake said. “I would say those players drafted in that type of level, there’s always a look at them to see if they project to be in the NHL as soon as next year.”

Since winning the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons in 2014, Los Angeles hasn’t won a playoff series and has failed to qualify for the postseason in four of six seasons.

The Kings acquired defenseman Olli Maatta, a Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017, in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 4.

“We have the ability now to put Olli Maatta in this lineup so that the [young defensemen] can be brought around at the right time,” Blake said. “Our right side was pretty solid with (Drew) Doughty, Sean (Walker) and (Matt) Roy. …I think Olli fills a much-needed left spot.”

Here is what the Kings look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Quinton Byfield, F: Signed a three-year, entry-level contract Oct. 16. … Olli Maatta, D: The 26-year-old scored 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 65 games last season and could join Doughty on the top defense pair.

Video: Los Angeles Kings select Quinton Byfield

 

Key departures

Trevor Lewis, F: Remains an unrestricted free agent after scoring 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 56 games last season. The center has scored 163 points (70 goals, 93 assists) in 674 games in 12 seasons with the Kings and won the Stanley Cup twice (2012, 2014). … Ben Hutton, D: Remains an unrestricted free agent after scoring 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 65 games last season. … Joakim Ryan, D: Agreed to a one-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 12 after scoring five points (one goal, four assists) in 35 games last season. … Paul LaDue, D: Signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals on Oct. 10 after scoring 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 69 games for Los Angeles over the past four seasons.

 

On the cusp

Alex Turcotte, F: The No. 5 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft scored 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 29 games for the University of Wisconsin before agreeing to a three-year, entry-level contract March 11. The 19-year-old center could push for a spot in the opening night lineup. … Jaret Anderson-Dolan, F: The 21-year-old has one assist in nine NHL games over the past two seasons and adds depth at the center position. … Mikey Anderson, D: After scoring one goal in six NHL games last season, the 21-year-old is expected to be a regular this season. … Tobias Bjornfot, D: The No. 22 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft played in three NHL games last season. The 19-year-old scored 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 44 games for Ontario of the American Hockey League. … Kale Clague, D: The 22-year-old didn’t have a point in four NHL games last season but scored 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 49 AHL games.

Video: COL@LAK: Anderson nets first NHL goal off deflection

 

What they still need

Scoring. The Kings ranked 30th in the NHL in goals per game (2.53) last season after ranking 30th in 2018-19 (2.43) and have done nothing in free agency or with trades to address that this offseason. Kopitar led Los Angeles in goals (21) and points (62). Forward Tyler Toffoli, who was traded to the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 17, was second in goals (18); forward Alex Iafallo was second in points (43).

 

Fantasy focus

Byfield likely won’t have any valuable wings on his line, whether it’s the second or third unit, as a rookie and plays the deepest fantasy position (center only). That said, he has the ceiling of being their best secondary scorer behind Kopitar with at least 45-50 points. Byfield, who was not selected in NHL.com’s first fantasy mock draft of the offseason, does not have the supporting cast or team security of top rookie forwards Alexis Lafreniere of the New York Rangers and Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild but could be the most likely of the three to outperform his average draft position. — Pete Jensen

 

Projected lineup

Alex Iafallo — Anze Kopitar — Dustin Brown

Adrian Kempe — Gabriel Vilardi — Martin Frk

Trevor Moore — Quinton Byfield — Jeff Carter

Michael Amadio — Blake Lizotte — Austin Wagner

Olli Maatta — Drew Doughty

Mikey Anderson — Matt Roy

Kurtis MacDermidSean Walker

Jonathan Quick

Calvin Petersen

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