When the Colorado Avalanche drafted Bowen Byram with the fourth overall pick in 2019, they added another young skilled defenseman to the already star-studded core. They were fortunate enough to acquire the Cranbrook, B.C., native as the last piece in the Matt Duchene trade from 2017.
The former Vancouver Giants star is awaiting his chance to crack the NHL lineup after another incredible performance at the World Juniors for Team Canada. He is currently practicing with the team in the limbo realm of the taxi squad, however, it doesn’t seem as if the Avalanche are in any rush to throw him into the fire.
Colorado ran with a defensive core of Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Samuel Girard, Ryan Graves, Ian Cole, and Conor Timmins to begin the season. With Erik Johnson returning to the lineup after dealing with COVID-19 and the acquisition of Greg Pateryn, it doesn’t leave much room for Byram. However, the Avalanche need to make space for the 19-year-old – he’s that good.
Style of Play
Byram is an excellent skater, who can play in his own zone and can make that quick transition pass. He has great decision-making, as seen by the times he pinches in and when he falls back into the neutral zone to protect the middle of the ice.
This was seen at the recent World Juniors, where the Team Canada co-captain did an excellent job of sealing the wall and maintaining pressure in the offensive zone. He can also be effective on the power-play, seen by the minutes he received on the top unit from head coach Andre Tourigny.
Byram also loves jumping in on the rush and becoming involved offensively. He isn’t a slouch in his own zone either, as he always been great at boxing out opposing forwards and making the correct play to head out of the defensive zone.
The former fourth overall pick’s fast playstyle fits very well with the system Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar likes to employ. The former Jack Adams Award nominee encourages his defensemen to be involved in the play offensively and wants them to be quick, not in terms of their skating, but in their decision making and puck movement. Byram fits this system flawlessly and it will definitely take him time to adjust to the NHL, but when he does, he will be a force for the Avalanche.
How Would There Be Room?
Of course, this won’t transition to the NHL immediately, however, for him to develop into the player he is expected to become, lingering in the taxi squad won’t help accelerate that process.
Some Avalanche fans are seeing the way the Montreal Canadiens are making room for Alexander Romanov and wondering why they aren’t treating Byram in the same manner. To put it in simpler terms – the Canadiens are not as deep on the blue line as Colorado is.
With the extensively deep defensive core in the mile-high city, it raises the question: where would space open up for Byram to be a mainstay in the lineup?
With the shortened season due to the pandemic, expect to see players rotating in and out of the lineup more often. With the recent trade of Cole, this opens up some room on the left side for the former World Junior gold medalist. Byram could potentially feature in games when Bednar wants to rest someone, or he can be in a rotation with the likes of Timmins, and Pateryn.
Timmins has not been consistent in his time in the NHL, although he has shown signs of potential with the Colorado Eagles, the AHL affiliate of the Avalanche. If his play begins to deteriorate at any point throughout the season, expect to see Byram put in the lineup on some nights.
During Byram’s first practice with the Avalanche, the 19-year-old featured on a pair with the 32-year-old Johnson. The Avalanche have an abundance of young defensemen, that can all fit the role Byram could potentially provide, but they may not be able to do it better than him. Then there is the veteran on the Colorado blue line – Johnson. This is perhaps one of his last few years in Denver, and he can provide all the intangibles this young defensive core needs, however, he isn’t as mobile as he once was, and will need rest from time-to-time.
If Bednar wants to feature Byram in a game, but rest Johnson at the same time, he might find himself on a pair with the aforementioned Timmins. If the former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound can play himself into the top four, then Byram may be put alongside Graves, who has seen somewhat of a decreased role from last season.
Regardless of who the former Vancouver Giant should play with, the simple answer is that he needs to be in the lineup more often than not. He is an extremely talented defenseman that can seamlessly fit the system Bednar encourages.
It will definitely be interesting to see how the Avalanche manage the boatload of talent they have on the backend. With all these weapons left at their disposal, be sure to keep an eye out for who they run with on a game-to-game basis because I guarantee it won’t always be the same.
My name is Ilyas, I’m 18-years-old, I was raised in Toronto, and currently enrolled in the Ryerson School of Journalism. I cover the Colorado Avalanche here at The Hockey Writers.