The Colorado Avalanche are entering the 2020-21 NHL season as the seventh-youngest team in the NHL, with an average age of 26.77 years old. The roster is loaded with young talent, including 22-year-old defensemen Cale Makar and Sam Girard, 24-year-old forward Mikko Rantanen, and a 25-year-old superstar in Nathan MacKinnon.
While these players have been difference-makers for the team in recent seasons, the Avalanche’s farm system is still fresh with players that have yet to play a minute in the NHL. We’re still a few seasons away from players like Alex Newhook and Justin Barron making their way to Colorado, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any new, young faces on the Avalanche this season.
Whether acquired via draft or trade, two players that Avalanche fans have had their eyes on for a few seasons could make their NHL debut this season with the big club.
Bowen Byram was selected by Colorado with the fourth-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft – a pick that came from the Ottawa Senators and nobody expected to be as high as it was.
On Nov. 5, 2017, Sakic moved disgruntled star center Matt Duchene to the Senators in exchange for a 2018 first-round pick, a 2019 third-round pick, and forward prospect Shane Bowers. Colorado also acquired the aforementioned Girard, forward Vladislav Kamenev, and a 2018 second-round pick from the Nashville Predators, who had received center Kyle Turris from the Senators in the three-team trade.
When Ottawa’s season went south – just one year removed from the Eastern Conference Final – the team decided to hold onto its 2018 selection and send the Avalanche their first-round pick in the 2019 draft instead, a draft pick that wound up having the highest draft lottery odds at being first overall but would end up falling to fourth and becoming Byram.
The left-shot defenseman was sent to the AHL’s Colorado Eagles out of training camp after wearing the ‘C’ for Team Canada’s silver medal-winning team at the 2021 World Junior Championship. After spending four seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants, Byram is set to play in his first pro season with the Avalanche organization, even if it means starting in the American Hockey League.
Despite not making the pro club out of camp – likely due to the team’s loaded left side on defense following the acquisition of Devon Toews from the New York Islanders in October – Byram will likely be the first call up on the back end for the Avalanche after getting adjusted to the pro game in the AHL.
As mentioned, Bowers was another piece acquired from Ottawa in the 2017 Matt Duchene trade. Like Byram, Bowers has yet to appear in an NHL game for the Avalanche despite being traded for over three years ago.
Although he’s yet to appear in an NHL game, Bowers already has one pro season under his belt after playing 48 games for the Colorado Eagles last season. As an AHL rookie, the former first-round pick finished seventh on the Eagles in scoring, finding the back of the net 10 times and adding 17 assists for 27 points in 48 games.
The 21-year-old center from Halifax, NS joined the Eagles after two seasons playing college hockey for Boston University. In 77 games over those two seasons with BU, he posted 28 goals and 25 assists, totaling 53 points.
Bowers was added to the Avalanche’s taxi squad for the 2020-21 season – a group made up of at most six players in case immediate recalls are needed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Bowers has competition on the taxi squad, as he’s not the only forward being named to the group.
Martin Kaut, Logan O’Connor and Kiefer Sherwood are the other forwards listed on Colorado’s taxi squad. However, Bowers may have an advantage over the other three forwards since he’s the only of the four players listed as a center. Expect the 21-year-old to get into a game if the team needs to fill a hole up the middle.