In what must come as great news for Colorado Avalanche fans, 2019 4th overall pick Bowen Byram looks set to return to the ice. The Avalanche have announced that they are sending Byram to the AHL’s Colorado Eagles for a conditioning stint. This is Byram’s third attempt this season to get past the concussion issues that have thus far plagued his professional career, and given Byram’s health struggles since he was drafted, it seems like this is a positive development not only for Byram and the Avalanche but also for hockey as a whole.
Byram, 20, is an incredibly talented defenseman who previously starred for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. In his draft year, Byram posted 26 goals and 71 points in 67 games, and he was selected by the Avalanche who were undoubtedly salivating at the thought of adding another young blue-chip defender to a long-term blueline corps that already boasted Cale Makar and Samuel Girard.
But despite those great hopes, Byram’s professional career has been rocky, to put it mildly. Since he finished his junior career having played 188 WHL games Byram has played in a total of 37 contests over two seasons with the Avalanche, a number that illustrates the significant health issues Byram has had as a professional. The Athletic’s Peter Baugh went into detail in a story covering Byram’s first year in Colorado, (subscription required) and in it, Byram reveals that he battled a growing worry that “his career was slipping away” and that he would not be able to continue playing hockey. But Byram overcame those challenges and a bout with COVID-19 to get into the lineup for the Avalanche this season. He has been very impressive in his brief time with the big club, posting 11 points in 18 games, but his ability to succeed kept getting undercut by injury woes. There was a head injury in early November that began to derail his campaign, and he was continually in the process of recovering from injuries only to face new issues. In January, Byram left the team for “personal reasons,” reasons clarified via Baugh to be Byram’s need to deal with the “lingering issues” that stemmed from his original concussions.
Since that point, Byram has been working towards an eventual return where he could finally, hopefully, put those issues behind him and truly begin in earnest an NHL career that holds so much promise. That work to get back reached a new checkpoint tonight, as Byram’s loan means that he is ready to resume playing professional hockey. The Avalanche have a strong defense corps, but also one that is not without its injury issues. Girard has been out for an extended period, and Ryan Murray recently was forced out of the lineup with a wrist injury. Getting Byram back (and even potentially acquainting him on a partnership with new acquisition Josh Manson) would be a significant boon for Colorado as they gear up for what the team expects to be a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.