2019 NHL Draft Preview: Bowen Byram, WHL Defenseman

As we approach next month’s NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, our pre-event coverage continues — while staying in the WHL — as we get to know Bowen Byram, who is expected to be the top defenseman selected this year.

As mentioned in our Kirby Dach profile last week, articles published in this series are not in a ranked order; they’re simply meant to serve as a springboard toward an ongoing conversation regarding a dozen or so prospects that will be scooped up by NHL teams after Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko go No. 1 and 2.

We speculated briefly here on a potential strategy by the Kings regarding their first selection in the Draft (No. 5 overall).

According to most scouts, there is a lot of fluidity in this draft class after the top two selections, with most players from about No. 3 on through to the mid-teens being ranked closely together – including Byram; although he’s likely near the top of this pack.

As of this writing, Byram is still competing in the WHL championship with the Vancouver Giants. Should his team defeat Price Albert in Game 7 tonight, they will continue on to the Memorial Cup. Like most top prospects, Byram will also have the NHL Draft Combine to look forward to in a few weeks, where future NHL hopefuls will endure a myriad of physical tests and interviews with executives and scouts representing the league’s 31 teams.

Let’s take a closer look at someone the Kings may be targeting at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft:

BOWEN BYRAM

Vitals

Date of Birth: June 13, 2001
Height: 6’0
Weight: 194 lbs
Shoots: Left
Position: Defense

2018-19 Regular Season

Byram spent his entire 2018-19 WHL season on the Vancouver Giants, scoring 71 points (26 G, 45 A) in 67 games – good for second overall on his team. The 26 goals also led all defensemen in the league.

Additionally, Byram represented Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he scored four points (1 G, 3 A) in five games while earning a gold medal.

History in the Making

Currently, Byram is tied for the overall lead in WHL playoff scoring, notching 25 points (8 G, 17 A) in 21 games. For context, Derrick Pouliot was third in playoff scoring as a 20 year-old defenseman in 2014. Byram is tied for the lead as a 17 year-old. Aside from Pouliot, you’d have to go back to 2003 to find a player on the blueline who had a similar offensive impact in the WHL playoffs. Further, no defenseman has ever led the WHL in playoff scoring dating back to 1986.

Familiar Face

Brad Morrison, who was signed as a free agent by the Kings organization last year (and spent the season with AHL Ontario), spent half a season with Byram on the Vancouver Giants during the 2017-18 WHL season.

Rankings by Independent Scouting Services

– 3rd by Sportsnet, where Sam Cosentino wrote, “The legend continues to grow. Try and find the last time a draft-eligible defenceman lead the league in playoff scoring.”

– 7th by The Draft Analyst, who noted: “Bottom-dwelling teams looking for a franchise-changing defense prospect picked the wrong year to have such an important requirement, so keep an eye on stud puck mover Bowen Byram out of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants to leapfrog one or more of the notable forwards. He is head and shoulders above the rest of his draft-eligible peers, and for good reason. Unlike last year, where four blueliners were picked in the top 10, Byram should be the lone rearguard within the top tier. With 26 goals to best all WHL defenders, he easily was one of the league’s top defenseman, let alone amongst his own age group.”

– 4th by Last Word on Hockey. They made a familiar comparison, saying, “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.”

See For Yourself

Andy Lehoux of Future Considerations provided a comprehensive video breakdown of how Byram plays, as well as his perceived skillset.

Final Comments

As with Dach in our prior article, the question of ‘Why should the Kings consider drafting him?’ easily comes to mind. Byram is the consensus best defenseman in the draft, and with comparisons to Drew Doughty it’s enticing to think of a top pair of Byram and Doughty policing the backend for years to come. Plus, Byram’s offensive abilities should be welcome on any team, let alone for a Los Angeles team needing to fill in some of the offense missing from the blueline due to the absence of Jake Muzzin.

NOTE: David Hofreiter was the lead contributor in the gathering of information used in this article. You can find him on Twitter @Davidenkness to talk more hockey.

RELATED CONTENT:

2019 NHL Draft Preview: Kirby Dach, Center

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