Quinton Byfield said he’s healthy and prepared to play for the Los Angeles Kings in the 2021 Rookie Faceoff Tournament at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, Arizona, beginning Friday.
The 19-year-old center, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, didn’t participate in development camp last month because of a foot injury.
“(The injury occurred) in the summertime and I came out to see if I could do the development camp (Aug. 23-27), but I think it was just best if I held off for a little bit more and got back to 100 percent for this tournament and training camp,” Byfield said Thursday. “I did some rehab with the Kings and I’m back 100 percent, ready to go.”
The Rookie Faceoff also includes prospects from the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and host Arizona Coyotes.
Byfield (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) worked hard to become a stronger and faster player over the summer, and said he learned a lot in his six games with the Kings at the end of last season after making his NHL debut against the Ducks on April 28. He had one assist, against the Coyotes on May 5.
“I think there’s a lot of development still that has to take place,” he said, “and through the summer I kind of just thought about those (six) games … it was good to see where I was at and see what I had to train for. The (NHL) pace is a lot faster, guys are a bit stronger, and I expected that. I put on a little more weight (five pounds), worked on my footwork.
“Even in the [face-off circle]. Guys are a lot quicker with their hands on face-offs, so you got to take that into account as well.”
Byfield scored 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 32 games for Ontario of the American Hockey League last season.
Ontario coach John Wroblewski, who is coaching the Kings prospects in the Rookie Faceoff, likes what he sees in Byfield.
“He already put in a lot of work this summer … he looks like another athlete who took another step,” Wroblewski said. “We want to make sure that his habits are in order going into NHL camp. One thing we’re still working on with him is having an assassin’s mentality in the goal scoring zone. When he puts himself in those positions to bury one, we want to get that thing up under the bar. We want to make sure he’s picking a corner and, in the process, ending that opportunity.
“His work ethic and tenacity in practice today was something that I hope springboards him into success and in his two, maybe, three games he gets on this trip. I want to see him use these couple of games to build that confidence.”