Colorado Avalanche: Could Bowen Byram Provide a Defensive Future?

The Colorado Avalanche have the fourth-overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. They might use that pick on Bowen Byram to keep their blueline strong in the future.

The Colorado Avalanche seem pretty stocked at the defensive position. However, the team’s cornerstone on defense, Erik Johnson, is 31. They also have 30-year-old Ian Cole, who only has two years left on his contract.

The general consensus is that outside of the top-two picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, neither of which Colorado has, players selected this year will take a couple years of development. So, the Avs might take a flyer at a defenseman.

Will they do so with their number-four pick, acquired from Ottawa in the Matt Duchene trade? My first instinct is no, but I didn’t see them picking Cale Makar with the fourth-overall pick a couple years ago either.

The top defensive prospect in this year’s draft is Bowen Byram.

Bowen Byram

2018-19 Team: Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Date of Birth: June 13, 2001 (17 years old)
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 194 lbs.
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left

Ranked #5 by HOCKEYPROSPECT.COM
Ranked #6 by FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS
Ranked #3 by ISS HOCKEY
Ranked #4 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #2 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #4 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #6 by TSN/McKenzie

As you can see, Bowen Byram is the top-rated defenseman in the draft — you have to get to number three to find a defenseman in European skaters. He’s projected to go as high as number three and as low as number six — so right within the Colorado Avalanche’s number-four range.

In 67 games with the Vancouver Giants last season, Byram put up 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists). In 22 playoff games, he recorded 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists). He recorded that offense as a defenseman.

As Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects puts it, Bowen Byram is an “exceptionally gifted defenseman” with “elite skating ability” and good puck handling skills. Joe adds that Byram plays best in a “high-energy, up-tempo” game. He concludes:

“His creativity in the offensive zone speaks to his confidence in his ability to be a game-changer. Defensively astute, he actively takes away lanes and limits options for the oncoming opposition. All-in-all, Bowen Byram is a workhorse that understands how to take advantage of turnovers and shift the pace of play in his favor in all three zones.”

As Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects points out, many of the top-rated defensemen coming up these days are taking on more of a rover role than true offensive defenseman — I’ve been remarking as much about Tyson Barrie for years. However, Robinson doesn’t see that with Byram:

“It’s not just his goal-scoring prowess that makes the Cranbrook, BC native so dangerous. He’s not afraid to step up and take the body in open ice or impose his will in the corners. He can see the play develop and anticipate his moment to step up.”

The article linked above does a great job of walking through some of the finer points of Byram’s play with relevant video clips.

Concerning defense, Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey concurs that Bowen Byram is “willing to play a physical game.” From the highlight clips I’ve seen, it’s clear the young man likes to hit. Indeed, Kerr observes that Bowen’s style of play makes “forwards have to be aware of coming down his side of the ice with their heads down.”

Other aspects of Byram’s defensive game that Kerr appreciates is his ability to stay in position while making big checks and also his strong first pass.

Bowen Byram in action:

Bowen Byram and the Colorado Avalanche

I went into this post thinking the Colorado Avalanche didn’t need to select another defenseman in the top-five considering Cale Makar just went pro — and looks like he’s going to turn out just fine.

However, as I’m going through the video and scouting reports for Bowen Byram, I’m really impressed with his talent. What’s even more impressive to me is how polished he is while still being just 17 years old. What’s more, he’s at 6-foot, 198 pounds at that age — he’s certain to gain an inch or two and a few pounds of muscle in the next couple years.

So, now I’m leaning toward Colorado wanting to draft him. He’s got a lot of pure offense, but I like that he also plays a physical game. I think the skills he’s already displaying, plus the development he’ll go through in the next couple years (likely in the WHL) would be a complement to Makar and Sam Girard.

We already know who the numbers one and two picks are going to be — Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. So, as GM Joe Sakic points out, the draft starts at the number-three position, held by the Chicago Blackhawks.

And mock drafts have them vacillating between Alex Turcotte and Bowen Byram. This situation is reminiscent of the draft two years ago when the Colorado Avalanche had the fourth-overall only to see the Dallas Stars steal the 17-year-old defenseman, Miro Heiskenan, they wanted.

That worked out well for us that year, but I’m hoping Chicago does not select Byram so we have a chance at him. If they do, though, I hope Colorado does not select Alex Turcotte. (Which means they almost certainly will.

Anyway, the Avalanche have eight picks total in the 2019 NHL Draft, including two first-rounders:

#4 (from Ottawa)
#16
#47
#62 (also from Ottawa)
#78
#140
#171
#202

I’m confident the Colorado Avalanche will get some good players.

The 2019 NHL Draft takes place on June 21 – 22 in Vancouver, B.C. While the time for the first round hasn’t been announced, last year it was at 5:30 pm MT.