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Colorado Avalanche Top 25 Under 25: #2 Bowen Byram

The youngest first-team defender just misses the top spot.

Colorado Avalanche v Seattle Kraken - Game Four Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey staff. Five writers have ranked players under the age of 25 in the Colorado Avalanche organization as of July 1, 2023. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.

Bowen Byram has been one of the Colorado Avalanche’s top prospects for years now. Ever since his selection at fourth overall in 2019, his status as a potential top NHL defenseman has seemed more and more attainable.

Byram was selected by the Avalanche after one of the most productive seasons the WHL’s Vancouver Giants had ever seen. Byram’s 26 goals and 45 assists in his second season with the club left him just one point shy of the franchise record, held by former Av Kevin Connauton. His following season was on pace to be just shy of the high marks he had set in his gangbuster of a season before it was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Byram’s next action wouldn’t be until the 2020 World Junior Championships where he co-captained Team Canada with Sabres’ prospect Dylan Cozens. His five points in seven games helped lead Team Canada to the Gold Medal game where they fell to Team USA. After his impressive stint in the WHL and a good showing at the WJCs, the Avalanche decided Byram was ready for the 2021 NHL season.

The Avalanche believed in Byram so heavily that they traded away bonafide NHLer Ian Cole to make room for his contract. He showed that he was more than capable of sticking in the NHL, despite being a bit raw. The then 19-year-old logged valuable minutes for the Avs D-corps until he sustained a concussion via a Keegan Kolesar hit that remains contentious among Avs fans to this day. Byram recorded two assists in the 19 games before his injury and was nearing a comeback in the postseason until the Avalanche were eliminated in the second round to those same Kolesar hits and the Vegas Golden Knights.

Byram’s second season was much more impressive than his first. The Cranbrook, BC native notched his first NHL goal in the team’s first game of the season, a sign of what was to come that year. Byram showed vast improvement as the 2021-22 season moved along. He even got to show his stuff as the Avs's number one defenseman and powerplay quarterback as Cale Makar struggled with injury early. Unfortunately, the injury bug again befell Byram as he sustained a second concussion, contemplating retirement early in his young career. In the 18 games before his injury, Byram notched five goals and six assists, much better than his totals from a similar sample size from the year before. Fortunately, Byram was able to return in April of 2022 and added six assists in 12 games to his season totals. Byram was ready to go for the playoffs and boy did he make the most of it.

Despite not scoring a goal throughout the entire run, any Avalanche fan who followed the team’s run to the Stanley Cup can tell you how valuable he was to the team, especially in the Stanley Cup Final. Byram stepped up big for the team to fill in for the injured Sam Girard. He finished the postseason run with nine assists in 20 games but did much more beyond the scoresheet to lift Lord Stanley.

2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Byram’s 2022-23 season was an even bigger step in his development. He started the season hot with two goals and three assists in his first ten games, before again falling to injury, luckily not a concussion this time. Byram came back after a three-month hiatus due to a mystery lower-body injury and played some of his best NHL hockey to this point. In his 32 games after injury, Byram tallied eight goals and 11 assists, giving him a season total of 24 points in 42 games. He was again impressive in the teams’ brief playoff run but still has more to give going into the 2023-24 season.

Bowen Byram may be one of the more underrated young defensemen in the league. Similar to fellow Avs defender Cale Makar, there’s little that Byram doesn’t excel at. He’s a proficient skater with a solid defensive game and a great shot. Byram has all the tools and uses them effectively on most nights, but fell to some waves of inconsistency. Part of that issue comes from his already extensive injury history, but a lot of it also has to do with his teammates.

COLORADO AVALANCHE VS TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING, NHL STANLEY CUP FINALS Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Byram played over 100 minutes with both Josh Manson and Jack Johnson last season, and his underlying with both were subpar, to say the least. However, when he played with Sam Girard, his most common linemate by almost two hundred minutes, the two thrived, for the most part. The biggest flaw in Byram’s game to this point, though, is his high-danger chance mitigation. Byram’s high-danger chance share was a team-worst (minimum 40 GP) of 41.1 percent. It was by far the worst of any of his underlying numbers, which are all around 50 percent.

It was something he struggled with the year before as well, posting a 45.77 percent in that category in the 2021-22 season. It all stems from his net front coverage, something that he has much to improve on. He’s still young and doesn’t have many other struggles that massive, so as he continues to mature and grow it will likely get ironed out, but it can’t be brushed over now after being inserted into the first team for good.

Despite that small smudge on his resume, Byram is still an incredible talent and has some pretty high potential. The Avalanche re-signed him to a two-year contract this offseason. Hopefully, he can finally stay healthy and show the league that he’s a force to be reckoned with on the backend.

2023 Top 25 Under 25

#3 Calum Ritchie

#4 Mikhail Gulyayev

#5 Nikolai Kovalenko

#6 Sean Behrens

#7 Jean-Luc Foudy

#8 Oskar Olausson

#9 Justus Annunen

#10 Ben Meyers

#11 Sam Malinksi

#12 Jason Polin

#13 Ondrej Pavel

#14 Alex Beaucage

#15 Sampo Ranta

#16 Taylor Makar

#17 Jeremy Hanzel

#18 Trent Miner

#19 Colby Ambrosio

#20 Gianni Fairbrother

#21 Matt Stienburg

#22 Chris Romaine

#23 Maros Jedlicka

#24 Andrei Buyalsky

#25: Nikita Ishimnikov