Thursday, 9 May 2019

Giants’ Byram focused on here and now in WHL final

D-man on cusp of long and bright future in hockey

Bowen Byram is a top prospect for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
    Bowen Byram appears to be set to have a long future in professional hockey, but his mind is locked on an opportunity in the present that overshadows possible dreams of NHL glory.
    The 17-year-old is a star offensive defenceman for the Vancouver Giants who is ranked second among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, which happens to be set for June 21 and 22 in Vancouver.
    Byram, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 192 pounds, had a breakout season with the Giants finishing second in regular season team scoring with 26 goals and 45 assists for 71 points to go with a plus-33 rating in the plus-minus department.
    He tops the Giants in post-season scoring with seven goals and 16 assists in the club’s 19 games. He has a plus-nine rating in the plus-minus department as well.
    Currently, Byram and the Giants are facing a tough challenge in the WHL Championship series against the Prince Albert Raiders. 
Bowen Byram has impressed as an offensive defenceman.
    The Raiders lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and are looking to lock up their first WHL title in Game 5 on Friday at 7:30 p.m. local time at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C. Prince Albert will win the Ed Chynoweth Cup with a victory in that contest.
    The Raiders topped the WHL regular season standings with a 54-10-2-2 record and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    The Giants finished second in the WHL with a 48-15-3-2 mark and were rated sixth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    While the Giants face a long road in crawling back to try and win the series, Byram is aware that his team has a rare opportunity.
    If they can rally to win the WHL title, they will advance to the Memorial Cup tournament to play for the CHL championship. The Memorial Cup runs May 17 to 26 in Halifax, N.S.
    “There are not many players that get to play in a championship series in their career,” said Byram, who is an assistant captain with the Giants. “Being a young guy, I definitely want to soak it all in, and I don’t want to have any regrets at the end of the series.
    “They are a good team over there, and I feel like so are we.”
Bowen Byram rose to star status with the Giants this season.
    Byram has logged huge minutes for Giants over the four games played so far in the WHL final. He has posted five assists and a minus-one rating in those outings.
    The Cranbrook, B.C., product knows what is waiting for him in the future in the professional ranks, but he wants to stay in the moment for the present.
    “I definitely have a lot to look forward to,” said Byram. “I’ve said this all along I’m more focused on helping my team win the championship right now and move on to the Memorial Cup.
    “That is my biggest focus right now. Obviously, I have some stuff to look forward to coming up in the later months. I’m focused on the team right now.”
    Giants head coach Michael Dyck said Byram has earned the extra attention he has gaining for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. The veteran bench boss said his young rearguard possesses a real good all-around game.
    “He (Byram) has obviously had a great season,” said Dyck, who guided the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes as head coach from Nov. of 2005 to 2009. “He is an elite player.
Bowen Byram stood out in minor hockey.
    “He is doing something that not many 17-year-olds are capable of doing in this league. That is not only putting up points and creating offence, but he is playing defence as well.
    “He is playing against the opponents top lines. When you can combine those two at his age, obviously he has kind of set himself apart.”
    Dyck has had the rare chance to see Byram grow as a player and person over the years as well. Byram came to Lethbridge, Alta., to play on their top tiered teams starting at the peewee level.
    Dyck, who is from Lethbridge, first coached Byram in spring hockey before peewee along with his own son, Carson Dyck.
    Michael Dyck coached Byram from that point in minor hockey up until the blue-liner cracked the Giants as a 16-year-old rookie for the 2017-18 campaign.
    The Giants hired Dyck to be the team’s new head coach before the start of the current campaign.
    “Bowen (Byram) has always been a real good player at every level,” said Dyck. “For him to continue doing what he is doing at this level, it is a testament to him as far as how hard he has worked to get here and certainly what a good kid he is too.
    “He is a leader at 17 for our team as well, so it kind of reflects his character.”
    Byram said he has been fortunate to have had Dyck as a coach for an extended period of time.
    “He is one of the best junior coaches in the world probably,” said Byram. “To have him for how many ever years I’ve had him I think it is six or seven now, he has helped me out so much.
    “I definitely owe it to him to credit to where I am now.”
Bowen Byram, left, is skilled at reading the play on the ice.
    Byram said the Giants hit another gear this season with having Dyck as head coach. Dyck took over from Jason McKee, who was the Giants head coach for two seasons from 2016 to 2018.
    Byram didn’t have anything bad to say about McKee, but believes the chemistry with the players and the coaches under Dyck and his staff has been better.
    “This year, I think the guys just really clicked with the coaches,” said Byram. “They brought in a new system, a more defensive system than last year, so I guess that really helped us.”
    The skilled defenceman said his father, Shawn Byram, has played a big part in helping him along in the game as well. Shawn was a forward in the WHL from 1984 to 1988 with the Regina Pats and the Raiders and skated mainly in the minor professional ranks from 1988 to 2003.
Bowen Byram tops the Giants in post-season scoring.
    Shawn did play four games in the NHL with the New York Islanders in 1990-91 and one contest with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1991-92.
    Bowen said his father was the one that encouraged him to jump up into the play influencing his style to become an offensive defenceman.
    “Throughout my life, he (Shawn Byram) has been a huge influence on me obviously as a coach but also as a person,” said Bowen. “I think we have a really good relationship.
    “We’re really close. He doesn’t really push me too much anymore like he did when he coached me. He is more just a guy that I can talk to about certain things.”
    Bowen added Shawn told him old stories of what it was like to play for the Raiders and how loud the fans can get at the Raiders home rink the Art Hauser Centre. When the WHL final started, Bowen said Shawn wished him luck and has continued to be a support figure.
    Overall, the younger Byram has enjoyed his 17-year-old campaign with the Giants and plans to do what he can to keep adding a few more good memories.
    “It has been fun,” said Byram. “Whenever you are on a team that has a good year and is successful, it always makes it easier on yourself as a player.
Bowen Byram wants to make more special memories with the Giants.
    “I owe all the credit in the world to my teammates, my defence partner Alex Kannok Leipert. It has been a super fun year so far, and hopefully, we can end it off on the right foot.”

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