Part of the deal when the Chicago Blackhawks loaned Kirby Dach to Canada’s World Junior selection camp was that if the NHL got up and running before the tournament started, he could potentially be called away from the team and back to his pro organization. The same can’t be said about Los Angeles Kings prospect Quinton Byfield, who told reporters Thursday, including Scott Wheeler of The Athletic, that he will play in the junior tournament regardless of when NHL camps open, returning to the Kings afterward.
Byfield looked somewhat overmatched at the tournament last year when he made the club as a 17-year-old but is expected to play a huge role for Canada at this year’s event. The second-overall pick is coming off an incredible season with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL in which he scored 32 goals and 82 points in 45 games. He still received a gold medal as part of Team Canada but recorded just a single assist and no goals in his seven-game tournament.
This year he’ll be back for another medal, and his play could determine Canada’s fate. Byfield was on the first line Thursday between Samuel Poulin and Peyton Krebs for camp Team Red, though that doesn’t mean much this early on.
It is interesting to see the different approaches from teams around the league. Alexis Lafreniere, for instance, who is still eligible for the event, is not at the selection camp, instead focusing on the start of his NHL career with the New York Rangers. Detroit Red Wings prospect Moritz Seider, who captained the German squad a year ago, was also not released for the tournament. Byfield is expected to push for an NHL spot immediately, but the Kings obviously believe this event is beneficial to his long-term development.