The Colorado Avalanche might be sad that all play is suspended due to the global health crisis but that gives them more opportunity to evaluate prospects like Bowen Byram. Byram was the fourth overall pick in the 2019 Draft. He did not have as good of a season with the WHL Vancouver Giants but he will still play a huge role as soon as next season.
Bowen Byram Could Provide Boost Soon
2018-19 was an incredible audition tape for Byram. He scored 26 goals and 71 points in 67 regular-season games. Byram followed that up with eight goals and 26 points in 22 games. 2019-20 started slow but the Giants were not as talented this season and it brought down Byram’s overall numbers. However, he got hot late in the season and currently sits with 14 goals and 52 points while WHL teams are on indefinite hiatus.
Byram has all the tools teams look for in a modern defenceman. He can both move the puck and skate it strongly down the ice. He also has good offensive instincts with a quality shot. Byram has only average size at 6′-0″ 195 pounds but is willing to use his body to stop the rush and put pressure on the puck-handler.
Byram will be especially important if/when play resumes in 2020-21 considering the depth on Colorado’s projected blueline. They will likely let depth options Mark Barberio and Kevin Connauton walk in free agency. Nikita Zadorov might depart as well via trade. The 24-year-old has a great physical presence but he seems to have fallen behind Ryan Graves as the team’s best enforcer and Colorado doesn’t need two big-bodied guys with overlapping skill sets. Byram could slide in immediately on the team’s second pairing next to a right-handed shot like Erik Johnson. He would provide the offence to Johnson’s grittier approach.
What to Expect From Byram When he Reaches the NHL
Rookie defencemen can be a challenge to predict. Sometimes they start with a bang as Cale Makar did in last year’s playoffs into this season. Other times they start more slowly as Vince Dunn did in 2017-18 when he scored five goals and 24 points in 75 games. A lot will depend on how he is used. Makar has played like a generational defender but Colorado doesn’t need that from Byram right away. They have Makar and Samuel Girard to act as the primary blueliners on the power-play while Byram gets used to the game.
The best-case scenario is Byram is on the NHL roster next season skating next to Ian Cole on the third-pairing. Byram won’t even be 20-years-old yet and might have not played meaningful hockey since this winter. We do not know when hockey operations will resume in North America. The global health crisis affects far more than Byram’s development but it will still derail what was turning into another quality season for the young skater.
Fans should fully expect Byram to be a key part of the offence probably starting in 2021-22. Next year should be treated as one where Byram is more of a supporter while Colorado continues to stockpile firepower.