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Byram draws comparisons to Makar with Avalanche

Defenseman, who was No. 4 pick in 2019 Draft, has 'exceptional' offensive ability

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Bowen Byram describes himself as a rink rat, which is no surprise because his father, Shawn Byram, played professionally for 15 seasons, most of them in the minors and Europe.

"My dad played hockey, so I was always around the rink growing up," said Byram, who was selected by the Colorado Avalanche with the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

"He played overseas for a while and in the [United] States for a couple years as well. I've been in love with hockey since I can remember."

The best hockey advice Shawn, a forward who had no points and 14 penalty minutes in five NHL games with the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks from 1990-92, gave Bowen was to always put in an honest effort.

"You don't get anywhere without it," the 18-year-old defenseman said during Avalanche development camp in June. "I've worked hard to put myself in this position, but a lot lies ahead for me."

Video: Avalanche draft D Bowen Byram No. 4

The Avalanche have high expectations for Byram (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), who led defensemen in the Western Hockey League with 26 goals and had 71 points in 67 games for Vancouver last season. He had 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 22 playoff games, helping Vancouver advance to the WHL final, which it lost to Prince Albert in seven games.

"We were all in on Bowen," Avalanche director of amateur scouting Alan Hepple said. "He's smart, and his puck management is unbelievable. His poise, his patience, his offensive ability to see the play and read the play and to make plays is exceptional. Everything is high-end."

Byram reminds Hepple of Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, who was selected by Colorado with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. 

The Avalanche hope Byram can progress as quickly as Makar, who won the 2019 Hobey Baker Award as the top men's player in NCAA ice hockey following his sophomore season at the University of Massachusetts. He scored in his NHL debut three days later, Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round against the Calgary Flames.

"Their patience, the puck game, the smarts, the passing, the durability to skate," Hepple said. "Bowen is going to have to get stronger, and maybe the defensive side of the puck might not be where it needs to be because he never had to play defense, he always had the puck. But he's a top-end guy."

Although Byram has two years of junior eligibility remaining, his focus is on making the Avalanche roster to start the season.

"It's funny to think about, but that's definitely the goal," Byram said. "I want to play in the NHL, and hopefully it won't be too long from now. At the end of the day, if it's not to be this year, I'll be back in Vancouver and we should have a real good team. Either way, I'm really excited for this season."



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