All eyes on “Hotrod” Byram

Mar 31, 2023 - 3:00 PM
NHL: Arizona Coyotes at <a href=Colorado Avalanche" src="" />
 Mar 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram (4) prior to the game against the Arizona Coyotes at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy | Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Bowen Byram’s return to play in the first week of February came with impeccable timing. Prior to being reactivated, the lad from Cranbrook, BC sat out 38 games in order to mend from a tenuous lower-body injury that occurred in November.

Since rejoining coach Bednar’s bench, he has been on a tear and playing hockey in pure overdrive. And whoever the wordsmith is that coined his nickname, Hotrod, should earn a hardy pat on the back, as it fits Byram’s M-O to a T.

The swift defender has stepped up in the team’s hour of need and has scored five goals in the last 10 outings. Bednar hopes that he will not let off the pedal, and keeps playing aggressive, two-way hockey through the forthcoming playoffs. While certain brand-name teammates continue to heal from their respective setbacks, Byram has helped fill in the gaps, and more so, has made timely contributions since returning to the team’s bench.

Following the Colorado Avalanche’s roasting of the Anaheim Ducks this past Monday, Bednar praised his play and work rate. “I thought he was engaged right from the start. He was one of the guys who impressed me the most tonight- like for the complete game,” he said. “He was physical and quick in defending, and then had great anticipation, and great jumps to get up in the play and make plays happen.” The skipper added, “So, I thought he was heavily involved in our offensive attack tonight, both off of the rush and his own play.”

Byram had seven shots during the showdown with the Ducks. He scored and complimented his handsome game with an assist during the easy 5-1 victory for the rising Avalanche side. To date, he has managed to punch in 10 goals on 59 shots, dish off 12 assists, and boasts 22 points in only 36 appearances.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Travis Boyd (72) and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram (4) reach for a loose puck in the third period at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy

His defensive prowess has been stellar. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Canadian has delivered 74 solid hits and blocked 48 shots.

During Wednesday night's collision with surprise conference leader Minnesota Wild, Byram brought the pent-up audience at Ball Arena to a mile-high roar when he rushed out of the penalty box and caught up a clearing pass that originated in front of the Avs’ goal. Mister Hotrod slip-shifted his V-8 engine into fourth gear, went 1-on-1 with Wild keeper Filip Gustavsson, then elegantly slipped the puck into the back of the net to knot up the game in the testy first period.

The Club selected the lefty with the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena.

Then, the 18-year-old was rated the 2nd-best North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings for that year’s impressive class of pro prospects. During his 2018-19 season with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he led all defensemen in goals and ranked third in points. The youngster’s splendid play earned First All-Star Team honors.

Unfortunately, his hard-driving style of contact play caught up to him during his first year with Colorado. He only made 19 appearances as concussions kept him on the disabled list. The same setbacks surfaced during his second season. He finally recovered and was cleared to resume play, then went on to make quality contributions to the team, especially during its 20-game, Cup-winning, playoff blitz.

Avs fandom should keep a close eye on this gifted skater, as he is a genuine difference-maker. It takes die-hard competitors to win big games, especially during the season-ending home stretch and playoffs. This whippersnapper is a competitive team player. He deserves to be cheered on, game after game. And lucky for Colorado, he should bear point for many years to come.

In the near term, let’s hope he remains healthy, feisty, and driving over the speed limit until the final whistle of this arduous season.

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