The Kings signed center Quinton Byfield to a three-year entry level contract on Friday, striking a deal with the 18-year-old less than two weeks after they picked him second overall in the NHL draft.
The contract does not prevent the Kings from sending Byfield, who was the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history and the Kings’ highest overall selection since Drew Doughty in 2008, back to his junior hockey team, the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, next season.
Per NHL rules, Byfield must play next year either in the NHL or in his juniors league. He cannot play for the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Reign, until he is 20.
Byfield could play up to nine games with the Kings next season and be sent back to his junior team without it counting as a year against his contract.
Those factors could all come into play as the Kings decide where they think Byfield, who was one of the youngest players drafted this year after only turning 18 in August, will best develop next year.
Kings general manager Rob Blake said the 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward is probably physically capable of holding his own in the pros, but Blake doesn’t want or need to rush the prospect’s development.
“We’re not in a position where we’re forcing somebody into the lineup,” Blake said after the draft. “When they’re ready, those opportunities will come.”
Byfield had 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 games in the OHL last year and has averaged more than 1.3 points per game over his two seasons in the league.
“Obviously, the goal is to play in the NHL and this contract is another step towards that goal," Byfield said in a news release. "Now, it’s just about staying focused and continuing to train and prepare so that I put myself in the best position possible for training camp.”
In a release announcing Byfield’s signing, the Kings also said the center is likely to wear No. 55 with the team.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.