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What would Bowen Byram’s return mean for the Avalanche?

After a successful AHL conditioning stint Byram is ready for NHL action.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

After being assigned to the Colorado Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles, for a two game conditioning stint Bowen Byram has been recalled by the Avalanche. Byram is travelling with the team on their three-game road trip this upcoming week and could get back in the lineup as soon as tonight in Pittsburgh.

A return to game action comes after a 37 game break from the team for Byram as he was dealing with concussion problems.

This is the third time in the young defenseman’s career he’s missed significant time due to concussion problems. Last season Byram was sidelined for nine games after a series in Arizona which included a fight and then 24 regular season games and the playoffs last year when Keegan Kolesar boarded him from behind in a 5-1 Avalanche win on March 25th. Byram also missed six games in November, eight in December and now 37 games since his last contest on January 10th after taking an elbow to the head from Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat during a 7-1 rout of the Canucks on November 11th. Both these hits came in games that were easily decided for Colorado and both went unpenalized (you can argue Horvat’s may not have deserved a penalty but I believe a player needs to be in control of their body better than he was).

Byram was a stunning two way defenseman for the Avalanche in his time with the team before injury and we can take a look at how important he was to the team before his leave of absence.

The 20 year old blue liner brings much needed scoring to the Avalanche’s backend. Through 18 games this season Byram has 11 points, putting him at .61 points per game, which is an elite pace for a defenseman (especially a rookie defenseman). What’s most impressive about those numbers is that five of them are goals, putting him with the likes of Thomas Chabot and Tyson Barrie amongst NHL defenseman and despite the time missed Byram is still tied for the lead in goals for rookie defensemen. It’s also important to note that only one of Byram’s points came on the power play, a good indication of how productive he is at even strength.

Byram’s confidence to jump in the play and swagger with the puck is something the Avalanche have been missing with Samuel Girard out. His return could give Colorado’s defense a bit more offensive punch behind the likes of Devon Toews and Cale Makar. Byram’s solid defensive play could also keep Jared Bednar from feeling the need to play the top pair so much.

Byram’s defensive zone heatmap backs up the idea that his best play comes in his own zone, especially in front of the net. For a 190 lb rookie Byram really knows how to play effective hockey in front of his own net, something the Avalanche desperately need from someone other than Josh Manson.

It’s not confirmed that Byram will play at all on this upcoming road trip but the chances are good given that he had the option to stay with the Eagles for one more game. When and if he comes back the Avalanche will, somehow, become a much scarier team. Just in time for the final stretch.