A month of rookie Bowen Byram


Bowen Byram, the Colorado Avalanche’s fourth-overall pick in 2019, made his NHL debut against the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 21, 2021. The Avalanche defensive core has seen a lot of changes just over a month into the season, as they have already had 11 defensemen suit up due to injuries and COVID-19 protocol. But, Byram has made a case for himself staying in the lineup regardless.

Let’s take a look at what Byram has done so far in his first 30 days in an Avalanche sweater.

Byram’s first games

In the first tilt against against the Kings, Byram took a penalty early against Anze Kopitar, and took one shot in the game. The match was an Avalanche loss, but he posted a good start.

Byram seemed to already get his feet under him by the series against the Anaheim Ducks. He assisted on Mikko Rantanen’s goal, getting his first NHL point and showing his offensive side in the process.

Just as spectacularly, Byram showed a calm head and quick hands, as a puck slid past Philipp Grubauer’s initial stop and the rookie efficiently moved the puck away from the goal line. 

Byram has shown a variety of facets to his game. He has played on both the power play and the penalty kill and is taking shots, laying big hits and making an impact when he is on the ice.

He has played with a variety of defensemen, but has yet to find his pairing due to both chemistry juggling and injury issues. He has been listed on a pairing with Samuel Girard, Erik Johnson, Cale Makar, Greg Pateryn and Devon Toews so far this season. Girard looks like the most ideal fit for a defense partner, but it is good to see Byram get a variety of experienced players to share in a pairing.

As of the Feb. 2 game against Minnesota, the Avalanche entered the first year of Byram’s entry-level contract. Eleven games into his NHL career, Byram averages 18:24 per game, showing that the coaching staff already has trust in him. 

The first of four games against the Vegas Golden Knights, Byram had 23:07 of ice time. He topped that in the second game of the series with 25:03. This was largely because the Avalanche were down both Girard and Makar due to COVID-19 protocol and injury, respectively.

In the Feb. 20 Lake Tahoe game, Byram had a tougher showing. He was usually swarmed by Golden Knights players, he had a rough turnover and had bad luck when the puck seemed to go off his stick on the Alex Tuch goal. He went from 25:03 of ice time in the previous game to 14:25, not seeing any power play or penalty kill time. After that goal, he did not skate again.

His decreased ice time is not necessarily an omen. This third game in the series against Vegas also saw the return of Girard and Makar, both of them spending over 20 minutes on the slushy ice. They have each spent at least a season with Head Coach Jared Bednar, and already have his trust. And when the game got close, Bednar chose them and Toews in key defensive situations after Vegas made it within one.

What Byram’s peers are saying about him

Due to the shortened season, the staff had only seven games to make the decision on whether or not to burn the first year of Byram’s entry-level contract. 

“He’s clearly an NHL player and can help us win hockey games,” Bednar said in a post-game interview. “I don’t foresee him going anywhere.”

But, Bednar also acknowledged that the decision was left up to General Manager Joe Sakic and the rest of the management staff. 

“Bowen Byram, you can tell he’s here to stay,” said Marc Moser during an Avalanche broadcast. “That’s all there is to it.” 

“(Byram’s) a really important piece of our lineup right now,” Johnson said of his rookie teammate. “I think this is the deepest (defensive) core we’ve had since I’ve been here, and he’s a big part of it.”

Conclusions thus far

Byram is young and he is green, and he is showing steady development. This truncated season is weird, and there is no need to rush him into a top-pairing role when he is not ready for it. Injuries may have forced the coaching staff’s hand there to push him more. With a healthier backend, Avs fans might see Byram’s role be decreased anyway. 

It has been a month of Bowen Byram, but due to the COVID-19 protocol pause, he has only played 11 games. There has not been a lot of offensive production so far, only tallying two points. The second assist was on the game-winning goal in the Feb. 16 game, but Byram has yet to score a goal of his own. That is not egregious since he is a defenseman, but it would certainly be nice to see. 

There are some elements to his game that he needs to improve upon, but it is still early in the season and certainly early in his career. Byram is showing flashes of greatness, and it is going to be a blast to watch.

What do you think of Byram’s performance so far? Let us know down below or tweet us @TheRinkColorado.

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