Bowen Byram is just one of the players that represent the Colorado Avalanche’s approach to building a roster. The current regime missed on some early drafts, but they have focused heavily on the blueline in recent years and that is very visible in 2020-21. This year, the defensive core has only one player over the age of 26. Only Greg Pateryn and Erik Johnson have more than three years of NHL experience. Byram is a former top draft pick expected to help carry the team for years, but this year is not going quite according to plan. It’s been an interesting inaugural campaign for the 19-year-old.
Bowen Byram’s Uneven Rookie Season
The good thing is that Byram has not shown any hesitation in his first season as a professional. He’s managed to contribute 23 hits and nine blocks in 15 games while averaging just 17:37 per game. He also has a very good 55.7 Corsi For despite being just 19-years-old. It’s easy to expect the next coming of Cale Makar given Byram’s skating and passing ability, but this is still a very young player on a deep team. Getting positive possession numbers out of such young talent is a huge first step. It is also nice to see some physical stats coming from a player whose game is built more on speed and puck movement than traditional forechecking.
However, the rose-coloured glasses only cover up so much for the rookie. He has just two assists despite a 57.9 offensive zone start rate. It also hurts that his relative Corsi is -2.0, meaning the team takes slightly fewer shots when he is on the ice compared to off, even with his overall positive rating. There is little doubt that Byram is a capable player that can help Colorado excel, but he is having a hard time finding traction. However, there is plenty of time for the teenager to turn things around.
How To Improve Byram’s Production
It’s hard to alter Byram’s deployment too much at this point. The team would find it hard to start him in the offensive zone much more than they already do. They also can’t justify making him a power-play fixture with a handful of excellent defenders higher on the depth chart. That likely means the unexciting strategy of just more time on the ice.
Byram should have no trouble finding more points if given the right combination of linemates. According to Natural Stat Trick, Byram has skated with the regular top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen a total of 45:39. That is out of 264 total minutes for Byram as an individual. The quartet has recorded a 68.13 percent Corsi For but has only three goals-for and two goals-against. Those are Byram’s best linemates by far. It’s difficult to argue Byram deserves more time next to the stars ahead of Makar or Devon Toews, but it’s one solution the team could try to boost the rookie’s production at even-strength.
Outlook For The Rest Of Byram’s Season
It’s easy to get bogged down in the negative for someone who was drafted fourth overall. However, patience is key. Byram is not the only high-profile rookie struggling in 2020-21; top pick Alexis Lafreniere has just three goals and five points in 20 games despite playing a much larger role on the New York Rangers special teams. This is a strange year that is only barely half over for some teams. The sample size is still small for a lot of talented players. A surge can still put Byram in a position to collect 15-20 points over the remainder of the season.
The important thing to remember is that nobody had the ideal offseason. While many are still doing well, there are also established stars struggling to replicate their traditional production. The Avalanche rookie is doing just fine when you consider his age, Colorado’s staggering depth, and the weirdness of the past year. His future will clear up significantly after this summer’s expansion draft and a more normal offseason for 2021-22.