All the attention in the upcoming draft and lottery is understandably focused on Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko but the hidden gem and a very real possibility for the Avalanche rests in the consensus top defenseman for the 2019 draft class, Bowen Byram.
The Vancouver Giants blueliner has posted some impressive production with 71 points including 26 goals in 67 games in the regular season. Vancouver is currently tied 2-2 in their first round series of the WHL playoffs and Byram has posted five points through the first four games including two goals. The explosion of production is an increase from 27 points in his rookie season and has contributed to his skyrocketing draft stock. Four points in five games and a gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup should have been a hint as to the year Byram was beginning.
Standing at 6’1 and 192 pounds Byram is not an especially imposing force physically but has the mentality to battle and use his frame. He is a very good skater with room to improve on his top end speed. Byram is a polished two-way defenseman who can play heavy minutes in all-situation using his intelligence and defensive acumen. Byram is also a threat to pass and shoot with enough offensive capability to run a power play. All aspects of his game are on display on this shift-by-shift below where Bryam logged over 30 minutes of time on ice.
A two-way defenseman of his ilk is one that has become increasingly out of fashion in the top 10 of drafts and is why it is difficult to predict how high he will go. One may watch Byram an entire game and not feel like there were any especially flashy or dynamic moments but he just gets the job done and usually ends up on the scoresheet. Byram also has a knack for scoring the cultch goal, as evidenced by his six overtime winners, all seen below. Those goals coupled with the impressive production this season will make it difficult to pass on him at any slot on draft day.
Bowen Byram (top 2019 eligible defender) has an impressive 26 goals in 65 games this season. Six of them are OT winners, a WHL record. Here's all six. pic.twitter.com/AfuYAIiXUk
— Mitchell Brown (@MitchLBrown) March 10, 2019
Byram’s biggest appeal to the Avalanche is as a type of defenseman who could step in within a year or two and compliment such dynamic and offensive players as Sam Girard and Cale Makar for many years to come. As Erik Johnson ages and moves closer to the end of his contract, there should be an active strategy in place on how to proceed with the defense core once he moves on. Regardless of future slotting, adding another high end defensive piece who is close to contributing has appeal on its own. With the Avalanche owning an additional first round pick in the upcoming draft they also have the flexibility to grab the best defenseman available and still draft a high-end forward with their own selection. For these multiple reasons it just makes sense to give Byram strong consideration.