Everyone was excited when the Colorado Avalanche drafted Bowen Byram. He was the team’s first pick in the loaded 2019 Draft. The Cranbrook, British Columbia native immediately rewarded them with a very good season playing for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. Byram has joined Colorado’s training camp for the 2020-21 season and could start as soon as opening night.
The Avalanche Should Use Bowen Byram
Byram looks every inch like a top-four player in the NHL. He has respectable size at 6’1″, 190-pounds which has helped him excel throughout his amateur career. He scored 26 goals and 71 points in the WHL before he was drafted. His first year after the draft produced 14 goals and 52 points in 50 games before the season shuttered early. That total was third on the Giants behind Florida Panthers’ prospect Justin Sourdif and Tristen Nielsen. Lastly, Byram contributed one goal and five points in seven games during Canada’s silver medal run at the recent World Junior Championships in Edmonton. He was the team’s best defender during the tournament.
The Avalanche prospect is simply a dynamic talent. He is an excellent skater that can rush opponents, but also has strong backwards ability to make life tough on opponents. His two-way ability combined with good edgework makes him a nightmare to counter at both ends of the ice. It’s part of what makes him an ideal first of second-pairing defender.
Don’t forget that he is also a scoring threat as well. He has a strong shot from the point and the passing ability to coordinate the power play. He maybe isn’t the elite scorer on the level of Cale Makar or Rasmus Dahlin, but his potential isn’t far behind. He’s willing to do everything on both offence and defence in order to succeed; his efforts at the World Juniors demonstrate that. Colorado could not ask for a more skilled and enthusiastic youngster at this point in franchise history.
Where Byram Fits on the Avalanche in 2020-21
It’s no secret that Colorado is stacked as it gears up for the coming season. The Avs are one of the deepest teams in the league with no obvious spot for the 19-year-old. However, he has a higher upside at this point than either Erik Johnson or Ian Cole. Both of those two are capable of solid play, but there’s nothing special about them that should block Byram from getting important blueline minutes. The team has very little reason to hold him back after what he’s shown them in amateur play.
Byram could immediately start as the complement to another young defender. The team is brimming with exciting talents like Samuel Girard and Devon Toews. Putting Byram next to one of them would produce electric results. He could fill a role on any pairing from the top, next to Makar, to the bottom with Ian Cole. There will certainly be chemistry questions if the successful pairings are altered too much, but Bowen Byram gives any duo he’s on a higher ceiling given his skill set.
Should he not make the main roster given its depth, Byram is an ideal candidate for the taxi squad. That is a special group of players for 2020-21 that consists of between four and six players. He would be a major upgrade over taxi squad candidates like Dennis Gilbert. A full year won’t affect his status in advance of the Seattle expansion draft. Returning to junior hockey also isn’t all that appealing unless Byram really wants to compete for the Memorial Cup. He’s simply too good right now to keep out of the NHL much longer.
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