ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22. Defenseman Bowen Byram is the No. 2-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the fourth and 16th overall selections in the first round of the draft.
Bowen Byram was one of the highest-scoring defenseman in the Western Hockey League in 2018-19, and he very well could be the highest-picked blueliner at this year's NHL Draft.
The Cranbrook, British Columbia, native spent parts of the past three seasons with the Vancouver Giants and broke out in a big way this past campaign. Byram led all WHL rear guards and set a Giants franchise record by notching 26 goals in 67 regular-season outings. It was the most tallies by an under-18 defenseman in the league since 2001-02 and is tied for the eighth-most all-time in the WHL for the category.
Overall, Byram racked up 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists), tied for the 14th-highest total in the regular season for a U-18 blueliner in WHL history. He helped his team to its first league championship appearance since 2006-07 by leading the league with 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 22 playoff games.
"He's a threat in all three zones," said Vancouver head coach Michael Dyck to NHL.com. "He's able to make plays under pressure and make plays in traffic in his own zone and in the neutral zone. In the offensive end, he's able to create offense so he can create plays blue line-to-goal line, whether he has the puck or not."
His achievements this past season were more than his point totals. Byram proved himself to be a clutch player by leading all WHL defensemen in game-winning goals (nine) and set a new league record with six overtime markers.
"You can't let it get to your head, but it's never a bad thing (to set a record)," Byram said to NHL.com. "I think everybody likes to succeed. In the end, it doesn't really matter how many points you put on the board, though. It's about the team winning the game, so I'm happy as long as the team keeps winning."
Byram, who is 6-foot and 193 pounds, also has experience on the international stage. He represented Canada at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship, and he played for Canada Red at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where he captured the silver medal and was named to the tournament's all-star team after putting up five points (one goal, four assists) in six outings.
Byram also donned the Canadian sweater this past fall and helped his country win gold at the Hilinka Gretzky Cup.
Byram first joined the Giants for an 11-game stint in 2016-17 while also playing for the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, British Columbia. His first full season in Vancouver came the following year, and he helped the club to its first playoff berth since 2013-14 after generating 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) in the regular season.
"When I first got to Vancouver, they weren't succeeding so I wanted to come in and help the rebuild and winning again," Byram said. "I feel like we've done a good job with that."
Video: Byram boasts about confidence at Scouting Combine
The left-hand shooter has played in the city for a couple years now and will be no stranger to the Vancouver hockey environment when the draft commences at Rogers Arena. Byram, who turns 18 years old eight days before the 2019 NHL Draft, will have plenty of family and friends from his home province in town supporting him.
"He's obviously a very well-known player here in Vancouver," Dyck said to NHL.com. "He may be the highest pick we've ever had in [the Giants] organization so there will be a lot of attention and a lot of support."