CALGARY, AB --
The last place that Paul Byron
expected to be this summer was Calgary.
A highly-touted prospect of the Buffalo Sabres, Byron thought he would be back at the club's development camp, attempting to earn a spot on the roster next season and while that is still his goal, it's happening all the way across the continent.
Byron was traded to Calgary with defenceman Chris Butler
in the deal that sent veteran blueliner Robyn Regehr, former Sabre Ales Kotalik and a second-round draft pick to Buffalo.
"It caught me off-guard," he admitted. "It's a big surprise, a big change for me. I've never been out west before ... tons of new faces but I've been welcomed pretty well by this organization."
Unknown to many is the fact Byron was a key component in the deal. Many questioned why the organization would give up a second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and the answer is the Ottawa native.
"We believe that Byron is going to play and going to play very quickly," general manager Jay Feaster said. "Certainly he's going to play before any second-round pick next year for us. The reality of it is when you look at our organizational depth, we don't have a player like Paul Byron
anywhere in our system right now."
The biggest concern surrounding Byron is his size. Listed at 5'9 and 170 lbs, it is feared the 22 year-old won't be able to withstand the physical demands of playing in the NHL on a full-time basis.
On paper, his stature would be considered a downside but Byron has been able to adapt to playing against much larger opponents. In two seasons with the Portland Pirates, he was able to adjust to playing in a professional league while continuing to develop his offensive skills.
Through 124 games with the Pirates, Byron posted 40 goals and 86 points. He was able to increase his goal output by 12 in his second season in the AHL and his on-ice growth earned him his first taste of the big league.
Byron didn't look at all out of place when he was called up by the Sabres last year. He managed a goal and an assist in his short stint in Buffalo, showing he can produce offensively even when matched up against players who have a good 50 lbs on him.
He acknowledges his size may cause some to speculate at his ability to transition to a full-time NHLer but is confident his skill set will alleviate doubt.
"I'm a smaller, speedy, skill guy. I use my speed to create a lot of my offence. I just try to be a good, responsible two-way player."
Byron is expected to be a standout among prospects at the Flames training camp later this summer and while there is no guarantee he'll be in Calgary when the season opens on Oct. 8, he can't wait to start the 2011-12 campaign as a member of the organization.
"I've got lots of family out here in Calgary so being able to walk in this building and knowing I'm a Calgary Flame now is pretty exciting for me. I'm really looking forward to coming to camp."Follow Torie Peterson on Twitter | @ToriePeterson