While the Colorado Avalanche are unfortunately on a brief hiatus it serves as an opportunity to examine how things have unfolded through their first 20% of the season. One of the highly anticipated moments going into the season was Bowen Byram’s NHL debut and he did not disappoint. By the time decision day came on suiting up for his seventh game and subsequently starting the first year of his Entry Level Contract it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to remain with the Avalanche.
Through the first eight games of his very promising career Byram experienced more ups than downs as he adjusts to playing in the NHL. With a 59.74% Corsi For, a 53.69% share of expected goals and only three on-ice goals against at 5v5 Byram is holding up his end of the bargain defensively. After playing 11:19 in his debut Byram has averaged just under 16 minutes of even strength time on ice in each game including opportunities on both special teams units as currently the youngest defenseman in the league.
Byram’s notable highlight thus far happened in his second game with an assist on a Mikko Rantanen goal for his first NHL point. And boy was it more than just an assist as he perfectly threaded the puck through the opponent and cross ice to an open Rantanen. This was also just after Byram danced around Ryan Getzlaf for a scoring chance in front of the net just like he had done in the gold medal game at the World Junior Championship. It was a taste of the puck skill, vision and fireworks surely to come.
Though he has just the one point in his first eight games Byram easily should have been rewarded a few more times. With one of the team lowest on-ice shooting percentages at 5.41% Byram has been a bit unlucky on his own chances and teammates not finishing which has resulted in a PDO of .993. He has managed to get a shot on net in each game he’s played for a total of 15 with 13 of them fired at even strength. It has taken Byram 23 shot attempts to get this many pucks on net and he’s only had four blocked showing his patience with the puck and ability to get shots through traffic. While Byram is still adjusting and finding the right balance between patience and pushing the play he has a great feel for drawing the opposition in for an extra half second before making a move with the puck. This is all to say Byram has shown a capacity to create offense in the NHL and will eventually lead to increased production.
When the injuries started piling up for the Avalanche Byram was thrust into a larger role with more minutes and defensive responsibility culminating in a team-high 21:14 minutes of ice time in a 7-3 win against San Jose which was in his fourth career game. This is also when the physicality started emerging for Byram as he’s thrown a couple big hits in the defensive zone including this reverse check to Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad. Both of those aspects of Byram’s game were key attributes of his in junior hockey so it is great to see them translating early on in the NHL.
As the roster is still in flux due to injuries and now potential COVID-19 protocol absences to at least Samuel Girard on the blue line Byram will have to continue stepping into increased minutes and learning on the job, which he has done very well with so far. It is hard to believe it was a question where Byram should be playing with how well he has fit in to the team in Colorado. Byram’s poise has been the most impressive and consistent which is a great base to build off of as he becomes an integral part of the Avalanche defensive core.