Buckle up because ‘it’s finally happening,’ as the saying goes.
MayorsManor previously reported Quinton Byfield will play his last game with the Ontario Reign today — possibly forever, yet most certainly for a while. Then, within the last few hours, we again confirmed the plan remains in place to call-up the organization’s top prospect following Sunday’s matchup with the visiting San Jose Barracuda.
As we understand things, an actual date for Byfield’s NHL debut is still a work in progress. He’ll begin by practicing with the Kings and then they’ll see how things develop from there. Our best estimate is that he won’t debut on April 26 vs. the Ducks, as he wouldn’t really have had a chance to be on the ice with everybody very much.
Entering yesterday’s game in Bakersfield, Byfield was tied with Arthur Kaliyev for the Reign lead with 19 points. He opened the scoring in Saturday’s game with his eighth goal of the season, temporarily taking the points lead at 20.
Quinton Byfield makes it 1-0 #Reign with his 8th goal of the season!
Assisted by Phillips(3) pic.twitter.com/3YnpW6wQci
— Eric (@Kingsgifs) April 25, 2021
It didn’t last long, though, as Kaliyev scored his team-leading ninth goal later in the same period. It also tied him with Byfield for the points lead.
Arthur Kaliyev makes it 2-0 #Reign with his 9th goal of the season!
Assisted by: Johnson (2) pic.twitter.com/8Q0HvAbhan
— Eric (@Kingsgifs) April 25, 2021
Eventually, the 2-0 score held up and goaltender Matthew Villalta earned his first AHL shutout.
For today’s game, Lias Andersson has been returned to the Reign and will draw in. It’s been a dizzying 24 hours for the 22-year-old forward. He was originally expected to play both games for the Reign this weekend, but was a surprise call-up to the Kings on Saturday afternoon – which came with a pair of unique storylines.
First, was the actual call-up itself, did the Kings use one of their four allowable call-ups? The answer is no. They were able to get approval for an emergency call-up, so Andersson didn’t count. Basically, we’ve learned there were a couple of Kings players who were banged up and the staff wasn’t sure if they would all be ready to go by puck drop. Teams need to submit a list of active players to the league office in the afternoon. Thus, even though coach Todd McLellan could wait until just before game time to make his actual lineup decision, he needed to have options available to him several hours earlier. At that time, the only ‘extra’ forward they had on the roster was Matt Luff. In the end, Luff was inserted into the lineup in place of Brendan Lemiuex and all other regular Kings forwards played. Andersson was a healthy scratch.
Now, with Byfield on the verge of being LA’s second call-up, that will leave GM Rob Blake with only two more call-ups from the Reign (or the taxi squad) to the NHL roster for the balance of the season. Presently, there at least a handful of guys who could make a case for those recalls – including: Kaliyev, Alex Turcotte, Akil Thomas, Rasmus Kupari, Sammy Fagemo, and Sean Durzi.
One other interesting aspect to today’s Reign lineup features Turcotte back at center with Thomas on his wing. While the two have played together on and off throughout the season, they were a fairly regular pair early in the season and quite effective according to the analytics used by the team.
After tonight, the Reign will head to Colorado this week, where they’ll face the Eagles on Wednesday, Friday, and next Saturday.
Ontario Reign Projected Lineup vs. San Jose Barracuda
Kaliyev – Byfield – Frk
Johnson – Turcotte – Thomas
Andersson – Kupari – Fagemo
Eyssimont – Sutter – Dudas
Moverare – Durzi
Phillips – Alt
Gaunce – Strand
Other Roster Notes:
— Boko Imama has been recalled to the NHL taxi squad for today, taking the place of Daniel Brickley (who is not expected to play vs. SJ).
— Devante Smith-Pelly, Nick Halloran, and Jacob Doty will be healthy scratches, while Blaine Byron is sidelined with an injury. All three players are on AHL-only contracts.
— Highly regarded LA prospect Tyler Madden remains out indefinitely due to this hit, with no timetable available yet regarding when he’ll resume skating.
Sunday’s puck drop is scheduled for 3pm PST and can be streamed through AHL TV.
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Photo courtesy of AHL San Diego Gulls