It should not come as much of a surprise that Bowen Byram isn’t going anywhere. The Colorado Avalanche defenseman will be in the lineup on Saturday for his sixth NHL game. In this shortened season, that means any further action will result in the first year of his entry-level contract tolling. His play tonight will not change the team’s mind, though. Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reports that the decision has already been made that Byram will remain with the Avalanche for the rest of the season (and likely for much longer than that.)
If it wasn’t clear enough when the Avalanche traded away Ian Cole or when they subsequently risked the return, Greg Pateryn, on waivers, Byram’s role was never really in doubt. The 2019 No. 4 overall pick is an exceptional young defenseman and, as a player that Colorado hopes will be a core piece for years to come, they wanted to get him to the NHL as soon as possible. Through five games, he has given them no reason to doubt their decision. Byram recorded his first NHL point in his second game and topped 20 minutes of ice time in his fourth. He’s logged ten shots on goal, a few blocked shots, and a very impressive 59.1 Corsi For percentage. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the rookie defenseman early on is that he actually hasn’t been that noticeable. The 19-year-old has stepped directly into a starting NHL job and has played relatively sound, mistake-free hockey thus far.
Now that his NHL job is secure, especially since he is still too young to play in the AHL, the next step for Byram is to take on even more responsibility. That may be coming sooner than later, too. The news on injured defenseman Devon Toews is not optimistic, with head coach Jared Bednar telling The Athletic’s Peter Baugh that it could be a long-term absence. Byram is among those who will be asked to step up in Toews’ place. So far, he has been somewhat sheltered in terms of minutes, match-ups, and defensive zone starts, but the two-way wunderkind will need to be ready to play a larger role moving forward. Fortunately for the Avalanche, there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to meet expectations.