A buzzy start has given way to an unlucky second half of the regular season for the Colorado Avalanche’s teenage rookie defenseman, Bowen Byram.
Byram hasn’t played since March 25 and coach Jared Bednar said he understands any frustration.
“The guys are competitors, they want to be in the lineup,” Bednar said. “He’s no different.”
Byram joined the Avalanche following the World Junior Championship and earned the right to stay. Some nights were better than others, of course, for the 19-year-old.
He had two assists through 15 games, playing a season-high 25:03 on Feb. 16 against the Vegas Golden Knights. He was averaging 1.5 hits per game. The blue liner who piled up 123 points (40 goals) in 117 games during his last two seasons in the WHL was waiting on his first NHL goal.
March was when the trouble started. An upper-body injury sent him to injured reserve March 6. He missed nine games.
Byram said he analyzed his game during that time off, to a point, but later “tried to forget about it” and eyed a reset.
“Being out for a couple weeks sucked, and it felt like forever,” Byram said before his return March 18.
“Just trying to stay focused on (tonight). What’s in the past is gone now.”
He returned for four games, all wins, and was plus-1 in each. He missed one game during that stretch with a lower-body injury, and in the next against Vegas on March 25, absorbed a high hit along the boards from Keegan Kolesar. Bednar confirmed at the time that the hit was the reason for Byram’s absence.
Colorado defenseman Dan Renouf “took exception,” Bednar said, and fought Kolesar in the next game.
On April 7, the team tweeted a photo of Byram in a red no-contact jersey but said there was no timetable for his return. Two days later, he was added on the COVID protocol-related absences list, the first of four Avalanche players to appear there in April.
He was removed from the list April 19, with health testing typically to follow. He’s missed 13 straight games and has appeared in 19 of 45. Bednar said this week he’s looking into a conditioning stint for Byram, but even that didn’t sound immediate.
“We’re still trying to get him up to speed and get him ready to play games before we make any decisions on where he’s going to play,” Bednar said.
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