After Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko went first and second respectively, as many anticipated, the Chicago Blackhawks made the first surprise pick of the draft with WHL center Kirby Dach. That left Bowen Byram, the top defenseman in the class and considered by many to be the third-best prospect as well, on the board for the Colorado Avalanche. Joe Sakic and company jumped on the opportunity, selecting Byram and further strengthening an elite young defense corps.
Byram is the consensus top defenseman in this draft class, and by a wide margin. Byram wasn’t just one of the best defensemen in junior hockey, he was one of the best players overall. The centerpiece of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, Byram established himself as one of the most offensively gifted defensive prospects in recent memory. In 71 games, Byram totaled 26 goals and 71 points in 67 games. He then added 26 more points in 22 playoff games, becoming the first defenseman to ever lead the WHL in postseason scoring.
While Byram still has room to grow defensively, he is certainly a competent defensive player and sees the ice extremely well for a blue liner his age. Byram also possess more than enough skating ability to move the puck out of danger and can find space in all three zones. Byram is truly a high-end puck-mover with great offensive instincts and a powerful shot that he can use to create chances all by himself. Byram should push for an NHL role right away, but it also wouldn’t hurt for him to spend some more time at the junior level. With just a little time and patience, Byram could easily become a top-pair defenseman, power play quarterback, and one of the highest scorers at his position in the NHL. The same could be said for fellow Avs prospect Cale Makar, who could wind up on a dominant pair with Byram sooner rather than later. With Conor Timmins and Samuel Girard also in the fold in Denver, the Avalance blue line has a bright future.