‘Go out there and grab it kid, take the spot, earn it.’
While we’re not sure those were the exact words Ontario Reign coach John Wroblewski said to Rasmus Kupari before Wednesday night’s game vs. San Diego, they certainly could have been. And that just as easily could have been what was uttered to Akil Thomas or Alex Turcotte.
As we alluded to recently, the decision on which player to call-up to the Kings this week would likely come down to one of the organization’s young centers. While the status of Blake Lizotte may be driving the immediate need, there’s also no denying that the aforementioned trio — along with Arthur Kaliyev — are among the most deserving of the call-up (we outlined the case for each of them in an article here).
Friday morning, Kupari was officially moved from Ontario to the NHL taxi squad. From what we’ve been told, the plan is to essentially have him replace Quinton Byfield on the Kings roster in the days ahead.
Entering LA’s weekend series vs. Colorado, Byfield has played in five NHL games thus far. He’ll get one more game and then be returned to AHL Ontario, where he’ll finish out the regular season with Ontario and then participate in the recently announced postseason tournament.
If the decision on which young center was still in doubt, Kupari attempted to put an exclamation point next to his name by going out and scoring a goal early in the game on Wednesday. It’s something Wroblewski spoke about here.
Kupari leaves the Reign with 22 points, tied with Thomas and just two back of Kaliyev for the team lead — and he’s done it while played five fewer games than both of them. The gap came during a period when he was called up to the Kings for a brief three-game stint earlier this season.
Having already played a pair of games against St. Louis and one against Anaheim, Kupari is expected to get more NHL playing time in the days ahead, as we’ve learned Lizotte is not ready to return just yet. The feisty center has been sidelined since April 28. Throughout his 41 games played this season, Lizotte has been utilized up and down the lineup, starting the season on the second line before alternating third and fourth line responsibilities. He posted 10 points (3G, 10A) and was usually effective in a penalty-killing role.
It remains unclear at this time if Lizotte will recover in time from his upper-body injury to see more action this season. The Kings only have five games remaining on their schedule: two this weekend vs. Colorado, their final home game vs. St. Louis on Monday, and then a two-game trip to Colorado.
As for Kupari’s call-up, once he is moved to the NHL roster, that will be the Kings final of the four allowable call-ups.
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Ed Shapiro says
Byfield obviously has potential. Although playing lots of minutes and getting one point in five games doesn’t scare anyone. He’s 18 and will get stronger and heavier down the line. He may need a full season in the minors next season before he getting the call to be a full time NHL’er. My guess is that Arthur and Rasmus both make the team next season to provide more scoring. The Kings need snipers. They’ve got to great passers in Kopi and Gabe to dish.
John Hoven says
FWIW – Byfield can’t play in the AHL next season. His only options are OHL or NHL. If this was a normal year, he would have been in the OHL (was only allowed to play in the AHL because the OHL wasn’t up an running).
See here for more info: https://mayorsmanor.com/2019/08/understanding-nhl-prospect-rules-is-a-sport-in-itself-play/