PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Canadian defenseman Bowen Byram impressed a lot of spectators during Tuesday’s matchup against the USA at the World Junior Summer Showcase hosted by USA Hockey Arena. The Avalanche’s 2019 first-round draft pick (No. 4 overall) ran Canada’s top power-play – the unit that scored in the first period of a 4-1 victory over Team USA.
Wearing No. 4, Byram’s ability to run a single point power-play mirrored the play of former No. 4 Tyson Barrie, who holds the record for the most goals, assists, and points for an Avs defenseman.
Byram, 18, to step into the lineup for Colorado this year, perhaps even replacing a chunk of the offense that Barrie provided for nearly a decade.
“I’m a guy that prides himself on being able to play on both sides of the puck,” Byram said. “Whenever I get some power-play time I think it’s important that I capitalize on that. I hope to take that with me to the Avs this season.”
Indeed, with NHL training camps a mere six weeks away, Byram has his sights set on making the roster this season – a rare feat for an 18-year-old.
“I think I’m going there with the mindset that I am going to make the team,” Byram said. “If that’s not my mindset I don’t understand the point of even going. I’m confident in myself and I want to play in the NHL this year so that’s absolutely my goal.”
If given the opportunity, Byram is expected to play a vital role on Canada’s world junior roster this year. But he also understands that he has to earn his spot in the lineup.
“Growing up, you’re always thinking about the world juniors and you’re always watching it around Christmas time,” he said. “It’s definitely a goal of mine to play there and this camp is definitely part of that so I gotta perform and do my best while I’m here.”
Canada won gold at the World Juniors two years ago but bowed out a year ago in the semi-finals to Finland, the eventual champions. Two of Byram’s Colorado counterparts, Cale Makar and Conor Timmins, were on that gold medal team in 2018. And while Byram would love to add gold to his career accolades, he’s also excited about joining Makar and possibly Timmins in Denver.
“I met Timmins at development camp about a month ago, he’s a really nice guy. I know about Makar just because he’s from Alberta.” Byram said. “They’re both really nice guys and great players so I’m excited that they’re both gonna be on the same team as me.”
Makar was also drafted No. 4 overall by Colorado. In that same draft in 2017, Timmins was taken 32nd overall. Five months later the Avalanche added Samuel Girard, a 19-year-old gifted blueliner, in the Matt Duchene blockbuster deal that also gave the Avs the pick used to select Byram.
The foursome has completely reshaped Colorado’s blueline for the foreseeable future. And General Manager Joe Sakic has wasted little time keeping it intact, as he announced on Wednesday that Girard was given a seven-year, $35 million extension a year before his entry-level contract expires.
“I think if you look at our D core, Girard, Makar, Timmins, it’s gonna be really fun to watch for many years,” Byram said. “I certainly believe I can add to that as well. I’m a really good two-way player and I think the four of us can complement each other really well for years to come.”
If he had it his way, Colorado wouldn’t have to wait long to see Byram join Makar and Girard full-time in the NHL. But even though he is prepared to battle for a spot on the opening night roster, he understands that it will be a challenge.
“Being a younger guy, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if you don’t play the first game,” Byram said. “I definitely want to be there at that time, but more importantly, I want to stick around and be there at the end of the season too. It’s definitely a goal of mine.”
Byram will be heading to Colorado in about a month, giving him a week to get acclimated to the altitude before joining Colorado’s rookies in Anaheim from September 7-10. The rookie camp will be just the first step in Byram’s journey to earning a spot on the Avalanche’s roster.
Colorado is expected to have four veteran defenseman on a one-way contract at training camp with a fifth, Ian Cole, out until late in the calendar year. Byram will also have to compete with experienced NHLers Makar, Girard, Ryan Graves, and newly acquired Calle Rosen, all of which are on two-way contracts.
The path won’t be easy for the highly-touted defenseman. But whether Byram gets sent back to juniors, plays a full season in Denver, or gets a nine-game tryout, one thing is for certain: Colorado’s blueline is expected to be among the best in the Western Conference for a long time, and Byram will be a major component of it.