Byfield to Debut Against Colorado
On Thursday morning, it was announced that Kings’ star prospect is set to make his season debut against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night. An ankle fracture in preseason has kept him off the roster up to this point, but he will finally be in the lineup. He was expected to make the opening night roster before the injury, so there should be no surprise that he has been called up. Some fans were worried after his slow start in the American Hockey League (AHL), with zero points in his first five games, but he has turned the corner and looked like a dominant force in the AHL recently. With six points in his last six games and significantly improved 200-foot play, the team felt he was ready for the NHL.
This also comes after two tough losses for the Kings and coach Todd McLellan expressing his displeasure with some players. After losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning, McLellan said,
“We’re making some mistakes right now that we didn’t make a week ago. So progress would mean cleaning that up. If you’re led to the water, eventually you’ve got to know when to drink and there’s some that continually get to the water and they’re not quite drinking yet. They’re making the same mistake at that spot, over and over again.”From ‘Kings ‘young and old’ make mistakes vs Lightning, plus what they’re missing from Adrian Kempe’ The Athletic, Jan. 19, 2022,
He would then preface this by saying the mistakes were coming from “young and old.” While McLellan didn’t name any particular player, it’s clear he isn’t happy with multiple players right now. I’d have to guess Rasmus Kupari is the player who makes way for Byfield Thursday night, as he’s really struggled lately. Hopefully, Kupari can get some rest and return to the lineup at wing in the near future because I still believe there is a great player in Kupari, and he should be playing wing.
It will be a baptism by fire for Byfield, who is drawing in against one of the league’s best teams. Fortunately, he is one of the most talented prospects in all of hockey, so he should be more than ready for the challenge. Like with all prospects coming up, it’s important to manage expectations. It’s possible a player like him comes in and makes an immediate impact, but if it takes a little bit to settle in, that’s okay. Regardless, it will be fantastic to see the Kings’ top prospect back with the team.
With COVID shutting down several teams this season, the NHL had to find a time to make up for lost games. They were able to do this after the NHL announced they won’t be sending players to the 2022 Winter Olympics. The league is now using what would have been the Olympic break to reschedule games. Fortunately, the Kings have not been hit too hard by COVID and will only be making up three games. They will now play the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 15, the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 18, and the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 19.
Phillip Danault Fined $5,000
On Wednesday morning, it was announced that Danault would be fined $5,000 for a dangerous trip on Brayden Point. Midway through the second period of Tuesday night’s game, Danault would slew foot Point, leading to a fight between both players. Anytime a slew foot happens, there’s a decent possibility you get a call from the Department of Player Safety, so this fine should come as no surprise. Fortunately, Danault does not have a history of dirty plays, so he was able to escape without a suspension.
I do think this situation could have been avoided had the referee called Cal Foote for a blatant cross-check just before this incident, which clearly shifted this game into a fairly dirty battle. Still, there’s never an excuse for making a dangerous play like this, and Danault earned that $5,000 fine. The Kings will be relieved he escaped suspension, as he has been one of the team’s best forwards recently. His stellar defensive play has been on display all season, but the offense is now starting to arrive as well. He has eight points in his last 10 games and six goals in that time. He was a statement signing last summer, proving the team was making a playoff push this season, and he’s been worth every penny up to this point.
Kings Hitting a Small Roadblock
The Kings have rapidly climbed the standing recently, shooting all the way up into second place in their division, so it’s been a surprise to see them struggle the last two games. They were handily beat by the San Jose Sharks, largely through a miraculous five-goal game from Timo Meier, and then were beaten by a Lightning team dressing just four defensemen. The sky is not falling by any means, this team is still sitting in second place and is still on the up.
Still, they need to re-find their play, as they’ll lose several more games playing how they have over the last two. Hopefully, Byfield’s introduction into the lineup will be the spark this team needs, as they continue their push for a postseason return.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.