The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eight writers and 320 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2018 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
History repeating itself seems to be working out just fine for the Colorado Avalanche. For the second time in three years the Avalanche lost out on the lottery despite having the best odds and watched the New Jersey Devils claim the first overall selection. Sliding back to the fourth pick perhaps the Avalanche were freed up in a sense to instead focus on fortifying their back end and chose yet another franchise caliber defenseman in Bowen Byram following in the footsteps of Cale Makar selected at fourth overall also just two years earlier.
In the Byram selection the Matt Duchene trade tree is finally completed as the final asset given from the Ottawa Senators. Counting just Sam Girard and now Byram from the trade the Avalanche completely reshaped their defense with the promise of other portions of the trade contributing soon such as just turned pro center Shane Bowers. Byram also joins another special group as only the fourth defenseman the Avalanche have drafted in the first round in the last 21 years which include Makar, Duncan Siemens and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The 6-foot-1 and 194 lbs left shot defenseman from the Vancouver Giants in the WHL is the prototypical modern defenseman who can move the puck and create offense with his intelligence, strong skating and accurate shot while controlling play in the offensive end and defending well in his own end. Byram entered the 2018-19 season with a lot of momentum as a likely top 10 pick after a strong showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he put up four points in five games and was part of the leadership group on a Canadian squad who took home the gold medal. His season only improved from there and when it was all said and done Byram ended up shattering records.
Byram put up 71 points in 67 games during the regular season including 26 goals which led all CHL defensemen. Furthermore, he set the all-time WHL record for overtime goals in a season with six. Then as an encore in the playoffs in route to leading his Giants team to overtime in game seven of the WHL finals, Byram set another record as the only defenseman to ever lead the league in playoff scoring with his 26 points in 22 games. For his efforts Byram was given the CHL Top Prospect award and named a WHL Western Conference first team all-star, the only draft eligible to receive such nod.
Expectations for Byram heading into training camp and the 2019-20 season are that he will get a long look in Colorado and perhaps some NHL games before likely heading back to Vancouver for one final WHL season. He also then should be a lock to have a large role on Canada’s World Junior Championship team over the holidays and also potentially lead his team to another shot at a WHL title and trip to the Memorial Cup. Those plans could get thrown out the window however with a statement showing in NHL camp. The Avalanche spent the entire summer acquiring depth for their roster but none are as talented or potentially impactful as Byram. Good news is they don’t have to force Byram into the NHL too early but it is possible he could force the Avalanche’s hand.
Byram is the highest debut in our rankings this season and additionally over the past three years as Makar slotted in at seventh in 2017 following his draft selection. There is a lot of confidence in Byram’s ability to make an impact and in the upside he possesses. Byram also kicks off a trio of top five ranked defenseman who are cornerstone pieces for the Avalanche moving forward.