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Bowen Byram is a feel-good story every hockey fan can get behind

He turned 21 just in time.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“Put that on f*cking social media,” yelled a most likely impaired Bowen Byram with an open shirt, walking out of Amalie Arena next to Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog hoisting the Stanley Cup. Lifting arguably the best trophy in sports above his head on the ice and yelling at media members trying to do their jobs after winning game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final were two of the most significant moments in his young career, but they were also moments that were the culmination of a season full of ups and downs for the 21-year-old defenseman.

It wasn’t long ago that Byram took a leave of absence from the team for three months due to lingering concussion issues. On January 10, after a game against the Seattle Kraken, the Avalanche suddenly announced that he would be gone for an indefinite period. On April 5, he was back in the lineup to play the Pittsburgh Penguins and get as much time to prepare his mind and body for the postseason.

The 2019 NHL Draft’s fourth overall pick has suffered multiple concussions since his NHL career began, and it has taken a toll on the young player’s quality of life. Not only did he express openly that it felt like he couldn’t play hockey, especially not at the level he strives for every night, but it was also apparent that even living everyday life was a struggle. That’s why it was such a huge deal when Byram came back to NHL ice looking and feeling more healthy than he has. The hockey world has seen plenty of talented players retire after suffering from symptoms of concussions, and it would have been devastating for a young player like that to move away from the sport.

In terms of on-ice production in 2021-22, Byram scored 17 points in 30 games with a per 60 rate of 1.81, which was 12th overall on the team and third among defensemen ranking only behind Cale Makar and Devon Toews. His expected goals for percentage (xGF%) was also 12th on the team and fourth among defensemen at 51.49 behind Toews, Makar, and Erik Johnson. Per Evolving-Hockey’s regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM), his performance was also solid.

Bowen Byram RAPM Chart 2021-22

The fact that a 21-year-old that is dealing with lingering concussion issues affecting his health can perform at the high level he has in his NHL career is an impressive feat. At this point, Byram isn’t a world-beater, but he has carved out his role as a legitimate top-four defenseman on a Stanley Cup-winning Avalanche team. Plenty of teams would sacrifice lots of assets to find a defenseman of his talent level. And along with his incredible counterparts on the backend, he will only get better as time goes on.

The recent stories about Byram, though, aren’t ones about his strong production as a young player in the best hockey league on the planet. They shouldn’t be. Instead, they’re about his impressive resiliency in the face of problems that take lots of patience to deal with. Everyone loves to hear about players that overcome odds and get to celebrate it by winning a championship or an award. Byram is one of those players.

There will be plenty of fun happening in the days and weeks to come for all the Avalanche players. From the parade to getting their day with the Stanley Cup, there will be plenty of content for fans and media alike to consume. One player I’m sure will take everything in as much as possible is Byram. He is an example to all of us that nothing can be taken for granted. Even though most of us aren’t putting our bodies on the line for entertainment every other night, things can change drastically with one decision. A big congratulations to Byram on his hard work and resiliency this year, and it’s going to be exciting to watch the shenanigans that he and his teammates will pull off over the summer.