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2019 Draft Profile: Bowen Byram

An elite defenseman in the making and a one man breakout on the ice

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Vancouver Giants v Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

In the modern NHL, the requisite skills that are most coveted by teams are now speed, puck control and the ability to transition quickly from the defensive zone to the offensive zone. I don’t know that anyone in the 2019 NHL draft does that better from the back end than Bowen Byram. When you add his elite offensive capabilities and well rounded defensive game, it’s clear that in any other year, Byram might be in consideration for the top pick in the draft.

2019 NHL Draft Profile: Bowen Byram

Position/team: Defense/Vancouver Giants, WHL

2018-19 Statistics: 26G - 45A - 71PTS in 67GP

Size: 6’1” 195lbs

Pre-draft rankings

No. 2 (North American skaters) NHL Central Scouting

No. 3 Future Considerations

No. 3 ISS Hockey

No. 4 Pronman/The Athletic

What’s there to like?

Bowen Byram is one of those rare prospects that has the ability to wow you on a nightly basis. Without the puck he’s an exceptionally smooth and fluid skater, who can close gaps and make defensive plays well. In the unlikely event he makes a mistake, his plus skating often erases it before it becomes and issue. With the puck, Byram is an electric presence that’s hard to defend.

Byram’s elite skating, edge work and agility, paired with his 6’1 frame, make him incredibly difficult to contain. Players who rush him at the blueline are regularly beaten to their own net, when he uses their aggressiveness and momentum against them. Players who play off him and give him too much time are usually forced out of position by his savvy puck skills and patience, until an opening presents itself. He can walk the line and change direction in a heartbeat, which also gives him the ability to break down defenses in ways many other defenseman simply can’t.

On many nights it may not seem like Byram doesn’t need to use his teammates to create chances, but he certainly does it well. He can pass tape to tape, but often prefers to carry the puck until he’s drawn multiple defenders. Byram is also extremely effective when he drives net, but he can score from the point or deceptively dish the puck to open teammates without giving away the play.

In truth, Byram is one of the best defensive hockey prospects I’ve seen in the past few years. He has the ability to be the total package at the next level, as there are very few flaws in his game. With Byram also showing the ability to lead his team to within one game of the WHL championship, he’s also shown a knack for performing when it counts. In fact, Byram led both his team and the WHL in playoff scoring by putting up another 26pts in 22 playoff games.

He can score, defend and eat up critical minutes. Who wouldn’t want a player like that on their team?

What’s not to like?

Early in the year there were some questions about Byram’s defensive game. It’s hard to tell whether those concerns were based on merit or simply the typical concerns every scout likes to project upon an offensive defenseman. Picking apart a prospect’s game often reveals something to worry about, even in the most polished and prepared prospects. John Tavares was “too slow”, Alex DeBrincat was “too small” and a plethora of outstanding players were slighted through over scouting, so is that the case here or is there a real concern?

As the year went on questions about Byram’s defensive game began to subside. Byram carried a comparatively weaker Vancouver Giants team on his back in the playoffs and played nearly 30 minutes a night in taxing situations. It became clear that whatever defensive concerns scouts may have had were far outweighed by what he was doing well.

In fact, the questions began to shift from “what if his defense isn’t quite where it needs to be?” to “just how good could he look if he wasn’t being overused?” Questions about his defensive game faded and only the talent seemed to remain.

The only question that may be valid is how Byram will fit with the team that drafts him. Will they allow him the flexibility to do what he does best? Will they give him the ability to play the game in the manner he plays it best? Any team that drafts Byram will need to accept that he can be a bit of a rover at times, playing like a 4th forward, in fact that’s when he’s the most dangerous. He will need to be permitted to activate in the same way he always has to maximize his impact, but without sacrificing the other end of the ice.

How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?

If the Flyers found a way to draft Byram he would instantly move to the top of their defensive prospect list. Ginning, Hoberg, Friedman and others may each have their merits, but Byram, being a potential number one defenseman, would clearly pass them by. One could argue Byram might actually move to the top of the overall prospect chart, surpassing players like Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee. In short, Byram would instantly become one of the top prospects in the system and would probably target an NHL debut of 2020-2021 if everything breaks correctly with his development and health.

Could the Flyers actually get him?

Drafting Bowen Byram would likely require two things happening in the Flyers favor. The first would be Byram potentially slipping a few picks and landing somewhere outside of the top five. The second would be the Flyers showing the willingness to move up from 11. Are those things possible? Certainly. Are they likely? Perhaps not.

Could Byram actually fall from his lofty ranking to pick 11? Anything is possible, but again, that would appear to be unlikely. That said, if the Flyers keep their pick and Byram does miraculously slide to 11, Chuck Fletcher should jump over the draft table and run to the podium, because Byram is an elite blue chip prospect who projects to be ready sooner rather than later.

Highlights

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