This is the second in a series of in-depth profiles covering each member of the Colorado Avalanche 2019 draft class. The entire series can be found HERE.
The crown jewel of the 2019 draft class selected at fourth overall Bowen Byram projects to become a franchise defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche in the near future. The 6-foot-one 194 lbs left shot blueliner is the archetype the organization had been missing for the better part of a decade of a two-way puck mover capable of playing in all situations, devouring minutes and facilitating the offense. Byram adds swift agility, quick hands, a touch of physical edge and a high hockey IQ in a smooth as silk total package.
Byram entered the season thought of as a possible top ten pick and the odds on favorite to become the first defenseman selected in the 2019 draft. With a June 13th birthdate he was also one of the youngest top prospects in the draft class. Over the course of the season and in particular the second half as his development curve took off Byram did nothing but impress game after game and elevated his stock even more. Once the final rankings were released Byram was the second ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and the third overall prospect by TSN Bob McKenzie’s survey of scouts.
“He’s the new age defenceman,” Alan Hepple told The Canadian Press. “He skates, he moves the puck. His puck management is unbelievable, his sense for the game. He’s got that little bite in his game, that grit that I think is important. He’s not going to be stopped. This kid is really good.”
As an alternate captain Byram took the Vancouver Giants on his back all the way to overtime in game seven of the WHL finals. This was especially significant as the Giants had not been to the post season the three previous seasons before Byram arrived and had not won a playoff round since 2010. As Byram’s contributions grew on the team from 27 points his rookie year to a tremendous 71 points in the 2018-19 season so did the Giants experience success.
Byram is a volume shooter who averaged nearly three shots on goal per game in the regular season and up to 3.45 in the playoffs. It is easy to see how Byram was able to generate so many points and with 70% goals converted even strength he was able to make a large impact. Byram loves to get involved in the offense by rushing the puck but he has a great sense for moving into space in the offensive zone. That’s where all his tools come together and Byram uses his elusive skating ability to create as he carries the puck and controls play much like a center does.
The record books were not safe as Byram scored a franchise record and CHL leading 26 goals by a defenseman, including six overtime goals as seen below. He also set a record as the first defenseman to ever lead the WHL playoffs in scoring with 26 points including eight goals. Byram was recognized for his dominant season and accepted the CHL Top Draft Prospect award. This all-encompassing trophy had not been awarded to a defenseman since Seth Jones and Jay Bouwmeester was the only other recipient on the backend within the last two decades. Byram was also the only draft eligible player selected to the WHL Western Conference First All-Star Team.
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
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) March 10, 2019
Internationally Byram competed at the Under-18 World Junior Championship tournament as an underage player in 2018 and chipped in an assist in five games there. That experience led to wearing an alternate captain letter for team Canada as they won the gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky tournament the following summer where he scored four points in five games. He is usually leaned on as a more of a shutdown defender at these events and yet still produces. Byram has been invited to the World Junior Summer Showcase camp upcoming in late July and if he does not manage to stick in the NHL this coming year should be a pillar on the back end for Canada at the coming World Junior Championship.
At development camp Byram’s top notch skill and cool demeanor were all on display. The Colorado Eagles coaching staff focused on giving him some grit boot camp and a test of his strength which he held up well against bigger and older players. Byram’s skating and puck skill were both a treat to see live as he smoothly went through drills. In the 3-on-3 game Byram was let loose to create and show all facets of his game. In this play seen below Byram effortlessly skates into space and then passes down low to set up the play on a goal from AHL contract invite Sasha Larocque (not Josh Anderson!). Byram also added an assist on his team’s game tying power play goal.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 29, 2019
Byram is very close to NHL readiness with minimal holes in his game and the Avalanche will have a decision to make this fall. With the uncertain availability of defensemen Erik Johnson and Ian Cole as well as Tyson Barrie departing via trade there could be an opportunity for Byram should the organization give him one. Playing in the NHL at 18-years old is a big ask and one the Avalanche do not have to force but Byram could handle the competition due to the polish in his game. One more year to gain some strength and focus on a few defensive details plus a trip to the World Junior Championship and another chance at winning a Memorial Cup is a worthy path as well. Either way Byram is poised to make an impact in the NHL within a year at most.
Finally, a shift by shift compilation thanks to Rudo3.