As we continue our prospect profiles in advance of the 2019 NHL Draft, we have examined the scouting reports of five players the Chicago Blackhawks might consider with the third overall selection. They are:
These five prospects have something in common: they’re all forwards. With the Blackhawks spending early picks on defensemen heavily over the past few years, conventional thought is that Chicago will look to add up front in the draft. However, one player might be good enough to change that line of thought.
Let’s talk about defenseman Bowen Byram.
Vancouver Giants (WHL)
6-0, 194 pounds
Ranked #6 by FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS
Ranked #3 by ISS HOCKEY
Ranked #4 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #4 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #6 by TSN/McKenzie
- From EliteProspects.com:
An exceptionally gifted defenceman that knows his strengths and plays by them. He possesses elite skating ability and is at his best when playing high energy, up-tempo hockey. He handles the puck well and is able to keep control of it under pressure. He makes calculated decisions that consistently shift momentum in his team’s favor. His creativity in the offensive zone speaks to his confidence in his ability to be a game-changer. Defensively astute, he actively takes away lanes and limits options for the oncoming opposition. All-in-all, Bowen Byram is a workhorse that understands how to take advantage of turnovers and shift the pace of play in his favor in all three zones. (Curtis Joe, EP 2019)
- From DobberHockey.com:
The Vancouver Giants’ defender is off to a terrific start to his draft-eligible campaign. He began the year with a gold medal at the Hlinka U18 tournament where he produced four points in five games. Thus far in the WHL, he’s produced five goals and 14 points in 18 games. The mobile blueliner loves to engage offensively and has the ability to embarrass opposing wingers as he dangles with impunity on the blue line. He owns a big shot but can also saucer it through traffic. A tremendous skater with a big upside. Cam Robinson
- From TheDraftAnalyst.com:
Calculated two-way defenseman with leadership traits who makes the proper reads an carries an on-ice demeanor similar to that of a seasoned veteran. Byram has excellent mobility and always looks to either join the rush or create a breakout by himself, and he makes difficult plays while handling the puck look easy. Byram uses flip, chip, bank or stretch passes to trap forecheckers, and he’s capable of dishing the puck with accuracy and authority while backskating or off balance. He consistently keeps his feet moving and reacts to the puck’s changing direction with quickness and confidence. Byram is a strong stickhandler who protects the puck extremely well, especially in instances when he skates methodically into traffic in the neutral zone. He’s an upright skater with a powerful stride with both lateral quickness and rapid directional changes. Byram can run the power play from the left point or the top of the umbrella and owns a hard slap shot that is accurate, creates rebounds and requires little backswing to achieve significant velocity.
Defensively, Byram displays quick feet in maintaining a tight gap, even if a quicker opponent tries to shift gears on him. His stick is highly active and poke checks are timed without putting him at risk of getting caught flat footed. He likes to stand up at his own blue line; either to strip the puck or deliver a hard check. Byram can be guilty of puck gazing or wandering far from his slot duties, but both are part in parcel of his desire to transition up ice in attack mode. He plays with a lot of emotion and likes to get involved in physical battles, plus give the occasional stinky glove to the mug of an unsuspecting opponent.
- From LastWordonHockey.com:
Byram is an excellent skater in both directions and this becomes the basis of a strong two-way game. He is able to join the rush, or pinch in at the blue line and still get back to his defensive position. His strong backwards skating allows him to maintain strong gap control and makes him tough to beat on the rush. Byram has outstanding speed and excellent acceleration. He also adds excellent pivots, edgework, and agility. This allows Byram to cover all areas of the ice. Byram is strong on his skates and has excellent balance. He wins battles in front of the net and along the boards. He is also strong at protecting the puck.
Byram has a very good shot from the blueline and the vision and passing skills to quarterback the power play. He understands how to get his shot on the net through traffic, using his lateral agility to open up shooting lanes. He is able to score in a variety of ways and can sneak down from the point to use his wrist shot or snapshot. Both feature a quick release. They can also be effective weapons on the rush. Byram also has an excellent slap shot.
Byram is a strong puck-mover, willing to make plays through the neutral zone and to push forward to create offence as well. He is not afraid to lead the rush or join it as a trailer. Byram has excellent vision and passing skills. He can make a strong first pass to start the transition game as well as quarterback things from the point. His offensive game is at a very high level.
Byram is willing to play a physical game and forwards have to be aware of coming down his side of the ice with their heads down. He is smart and disciplined, not getting himself out of position to make those hits. He is strong along the boards and in front of the net. However, Byram will need to add some muscle to his frame before he can do this at the pro level. Byram can skate the puck out of danger and makes a strong first pass to start the transition game. His outstanding skating ability allows Byram to maintain excellent gap control and makes him very difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. Byram plays huge minutes on the Vancouver Giants and is counted on in all situations.
Projection and Comparison
Byram has the skills to be a number one defenseman in the NHL. However, he may not be ready next year as he still needs to add some muscle to his frame before he is ready for the pro game. It is also natural that defensemen take a little longer than forwards to be NHL ready. In terms of a stylistic comparison, Byram’s game is reminiscent of Drew Doughty, however this is not comparing skill level.