Bowen Byram Is the Answer to Fixing Blackhawks’ Defense
By Tony Gianares
The Blackhawks’ defense has basically been nonexistent over the past two seasons, and that’s putting it mildly. Drafting Bowen Byram would be an enormous step in the right direction.
Byram is widely regarded as the best defenseman in the entire 2019 NHL Draft class. At this point, he’d probably be the best defenseman on the Blackhawks as well. That’s the unfortunate truth.
Bowen Byram is a left-handed defenseman who stands at 6’0″ 183 lbs as a 17-year-old (18 on June 13). He is a really strong three-zone player. If we’re talking about skillsets, Byram checks off every intangible. His speed, puckhandling, awareness, and decision-making skills are elite. He also possesses a strong and accurate shot.
This scouting report on eliteprospects.com says it all,
"“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)"
This sounds like a player that the Blackhawks have been desperate to acquire for years. It’s almost like the stars have aligned, and now, StanBo & Co. just need to make the right choice. Bowen Byram may be the right choice.
Bowen Byram’s Resume
Bowen Byram has had a successful three years with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. In that time, he racked up an impressive 98 points (32G, 66A) with a 30 ± rating in 138 regular season games.
Byram is performing extremely well in the 2019 WHL playoffs with the Giants, which significantly boosted his draft stock. In 22 playoff games this postseason, he tallied 26 points (8G, 18A) with a 10 ± rating. When you combine his 2018-19 regular season and postseason stats, Byram’s total production would be 97 points (34G, 63A) in 89 games.
Byram got a taste of hockey in an international setting last year. He represented Canada in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge and the IIHF World Junior Championship. He posted 5 points (1G, 4A) in 6 games during the WHC and 1 point (1A) in 5 games during the WJC.
What Does Bowen Byram Bring to the Table?
There are a few things in Bowen Byram’s game that I really like. First and foremost, he can do everything and do it at a high level. Byram plays a great finesse game and a physical game, meaning he can score and distribute the puck, and also, block shots, throw checks, and win board battles. This is the type of player that you build an entire defense around — a future franchise player.
There’s so much to like about Bowen Byram. He’s a left-handed defenseman who will complement all of the right-handed defensemen in the Blackhawks’ system. His skillset and talent level allows him to play on both the power play and penalty kill.
If you consider yourself a “seeing is believing” type of person, then you will be a Byram believer after watching this highlight reel.
Where Does Byram Fit and When Can We Expect to See Him In NHL?
Bowen Byram looks a #1 defenseman and he plays like one too. There’s no question that Byram would be an instant upgrade for the Blackhawks, but I’m sure many fans are asking the same question. When will we see him in Chicago?
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To be honest, it might be much sooner than you think. Yes, Byram is 17 going on 18, but he’s very mature and polished for his age.
He will likely need some time in Rockford, or with the Vancouver Giants, but I don’t see him being there long. The Blackhawks really can’t afford to wait too long either.
Let’s say the Blackhawks select Bowen Byram 3rd overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. Whenever he gets to Chicago, I believe he could start off on the 2nd defensive pairing with a defensive minded defenseman like Connor Murphy or even Brent Seabrook.
Playing alongside one of these defensemen would likely yield the best results and simultaneously help his development.
As far as the special teams go, Byram could easily find himself on both the power play and the penalty kill. Can you imagine the power play being quarterbacked by Bowen Byram and Adam Boqvist? Better yet, can you imagine a top defensive pairing of Byram-Boqvist? Just the thought of this has me wishing I had a time machine, because I can’t wait to see that.