The Los Angeles Kings have signed their top pick to an entry-level contract as they make their already talented prospect pool even more impressive. Also, the European season is rolling right along with plenty of NHL prospects doing well like a recent late-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, who is off to a hot start in Russia. Finally, the Calgary Flames are looking to get a return on their 2017 first-round pick who is playing well in Finland.
Kings Sign Top Pick
If everything pans out correctly over the next couple of seasons, the Kings might become the model that other teams use when rebuilding. General manager Rob Blake has his cupboard stocked with exciting young talent and he officially added possibly the best prospect on Friday.
The Kings announced that they signed Quinton Byfield to a three-year, entry-level contract.
“Quinton is an exceptional young man and talented player with a very bright future,” Blake said shortly after drafting Byfield. “We’re proud to be adding him to our organization and look forward to the next stages of his development and a promising career in LA.”
Byfield was selected second overall by the Kings at the recent NHL Entry Draft. He had 30 goals and 82 points in just 45 games for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) last season. The Kings also announced that Byfield will wear No. 55 with the Kings.
Gordin Off to Hot Start
Speaking of 2020 draft picks, Alexander Gordin is on a tear over in his native Russia. Gordin was drafted much later than Byfield as he was selected by the Canadiens in the sixth round (171st overall).
The 19-year-old forward is currently playing SKA-1946 St. Petersburg in the MHL, Russia’s top junior league. He played in his fourth MHL game of the season on Saturday and scored his first hat trick in a 5-2 victory over Taifun.
Gordin now has five goals and seven points in his first four games. He has also played in six games for SKA-Neva in the VHL, Russia’s equivalent to the American Hockey League (AHL), where he scored two goals.
The Canadiens may have found a diamond in the rough with Gordin in the sixth round. He loves to shoot the puck, as proven with his seven shots on goal on Saturday. He is just as effective with his backhand as he is with his forehand. He spent the entire 2019-20 season in the MHL where he scored 39 goals and 68 points. It will be interesting to keep tabs on his production as he moves up the ranks of Russian hockey.
Valimaki Back to Full Strength
Flames fans have been waiting a while for Juuso Valimaki to pan out. The Finnish-born defenseman was drafted by the Flames in the first round (16th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut during the 2018-19 season and scored a goal and three points in 24 games for the Flames. He also scored four goals and 14 points in 20 games for the Stockton Heat in the AHL.
Valimaki’s 2019-20 season came to an end before it even began when he tore his ACL while training in August of 2019. The Flames loaned him to Tampereen Ilves of the Finnish Liiga where is playing meaningful minutes. He scored his first goal of the season in a 4-1 victory over the Lahti Pelicans.
The 22-year-old defender now has a goal and five points in his first five games of the season. He is showing no ill effects from his knee injury as he is averaging 22:31 in ice time per game.
If there is anyone in the Calgary system that needs a head start to the 2020-21 season, it’s Valimaki. This could be a make or break season for the former first-round pick. With the departures of T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic, Valimaki has a great opportunity to become a full-time NHL player.
As the action continues in Europe, we will keep you updated on all the NHL prospects making a name for themselves ahead of training camps opening up later this year.