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Avalanche offseason

Avs rookie camp notes: Bo Byram wants to play all 82, Bowers has bulked up



Bo Byram has changed his look, for one thing. The kid with the oft-buzzed to the nub hairstyle has gone surfer dude. Maybe that’s all part of an overall change of philosophy on a lot of things, after a first NHL season that, frankly, didn’t go very well at all. New look, new year and – maybe – a new outcome.

Byram, the Colorado Avalanche first-round pick from 2019 (fourth overall) was hurt for much of the 2020-21 season, one in which also saw him test positive for Covid-19. He never played for the Avs again after a March 25 game against Vegas, following a dirty, unpenalized hit from Vegas’s Keegan Kolesar. He developed concussion symptoms and, while he was cleared to play by the postseason, coach Jared Bednar never played him in the first two rounds.

Byram, who only turned 20 in July, will still be classified as a rookie this season because he only played in 19 games last season (25 is the minimum in your first actual season to shed the rookie classification). In a Zoom call with reporters Sunday, Byram said he is looking at this season as something of a do-over, that he considers it his first “full” season.

He’s participating in Avs development camp, which started Sunday, and will play in the NHL Rookie Showcase this weekend in Phoenix.

“I feel great, better than I have in a long time,” Byram said. “I want to come in with the attitude to make the team and be in the lineup every night.”

Byram has the inside track on a top-6 job on the defense. He was playing regularly for the team before his injury last March, and he’s a lottery pick. Assuming good health, he’ll likely be a 5-6 D-man, but maybe a huge training camp can elevate him into the top-4. Either way, if he can play 15-20 minutes a night and just develop at a rate that probably would have unfolded last year before the injuries, it should be a good season for Bo Byram.

Shane Bowers, acquired from Ottawa in the Matt Duchene trade, is facing a probable, critical, transitional-type of season here with the Avs. His career, unfortunately, has probably been screwed up some because of Covid-19. He has only played 80 professional games since 2019, all with the Colorado Eagles. I’d say the odds of him making the Avs, if I were betting at a top rated casino, are about 50/50.

Brian Willsie, who played with the Avs in the late 1990s, is now in charge of Avs prospects at the minor-league level, as far as their development goes, and he weighed in on Bowers Sunday:

“He’s definitely put on some muscle. That’s what we asked of him,” Willsie said. “He’s got a hockey player body, but he needed to put on some more muscle and stronger over the puck, and he’s done that. He’s a leader in this camp now. We’re excited to see how he does in Arizona and going into training camp. There’s giys who move quickly through the minor-pro and the NHL and there’s guy who take a little bit longer to develop, but his development is trending the right way.”

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