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Avs Mailbag: When will top prospect Bo Byram get his NHL call-up?

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Den­ver Post sports writer Mike Cham­bers responds to ques­tions in the Avs Mail­bag every oth­er week dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. 

Pose an Avalanche- or NHL-relat­ed ques­tion for the Avs Mail­bag.

When I saw Bo Byram last year in spring train­ing he clear­ly looked like the best play­er on the ice most shifts. I could under­stand as an 18-year-old to send him back to his junior team for anoth­er year of sea­son­ing. Now in your lat­est arti­cle about the acqui­si­tion of Devon Toews you sug­gest Den­nis Gilbert or Kyle Bur­roughs may be the extra defense­man this year with Byram going back to his junior team for anoth­er year. Did Bo Byram take a step “back” after he looked so good last pre­sea­son or was I fan­ta­siz­ing that he looked as good as Makar at such a young age?

— Scott, Lake­wood

Hey Scott, I’m not sure what you’re talk­ing about “spring train­ing” — but assum­ing you mean the 2019 devel­op­ment camp in late June/early July right after he was draft­ed. If that’s the case, yes, he looked good but he was play­ing with and against play­ers around the same age. Byram hasn’t tak­en a step back. I hear he’s devel­op­ing quite nice­ly. But the Avs don’t want to rush him and all signs point towards him return­ing to his junior team since the club acquired Toews, who is what Byram hopes to become — and pos­si­bly more. On paper, Byram is on the out­side of Colorado’s top six and he won’t serve as the sev­enth or eighth guy — that’s why Gilbert and Bur­roughs were brought in. Byram needs to play, and since he can­not play in the AHL because of the major-junior rule, he’ll like­ly return to the WHL’s Van­cou­ver Giants. Expect Byram to become a full-time Avs D‑man in 2021–22, replac­ing the expired con­tract of Ian Cole.

What is our goal­tend­ing sit­u­a­tion right now? Do the Avs have the right guys between the pipes to lead them on a deep post­sea­son run?

— Walk­er, Den­ver

That’s the most-asked ques­tion about this group. Local­ly and through­out North Amer­i­ca, seems like the major­i­ty of folks don’t think Philipp Grubauer or Pavel Fran­couz is good enough to lead this team to a deep run. But that’s what they said about Anton Khu­dobin before the career back­up led Dal­las to the Stan­ley Cup Final and then signed a big deal to remain with the Stars. Grubauer and Fran­couz are both around 5‑foot-11 or 6‑foot, very sim­i­lar to Khu­dobin, and peo­ple don’t believe in the small­er guys unless they deliv­er big. The Avs cer­tain­ly believe in Grubauer and Fran­couz, and let’s face it, they would have faired a lot bet­ter in the recent play­offs if one of them wasn’t on the injured list.

Love the retro Que­bec Nordiques jer­seys the Avalanche just released. Is this some­thing they are going to wear all sea­son? Any chance they make this part of a per­ma­nent rota­tion, would love your thoughts on the new/old school look.

— Bil­ly, Den­ver

They’ll don those uni­forms at least once next sea­son, but prob­a­bly more. They will announce the sched­ule at a lat­er date. Also, it’s not just the new jer­sey — they’re going with new blue breez­ers, gloves and hel­mets to sup­port that look.

I saw Pep­si Cen­ter is no more as the nam­ing rights have changed. Are there any oth­er updates being made to the are­na before next sea­son?

— Jen, Engle­wood

I haven’t heard of any updates, Jen, and giv­en that they might not play before any fans in the build­ing or a small per­cent­age of the 18,000-plus capac­i­ty, I don’t expect any. Ball Are­na might rub off on folks — the guy who runs Ball Corp in Broom­field is a hock­ey guy and for­mer own­er of the Den­ver Cut­throats. Here is the link to that sto­ry.

Mike, it appears the Avs have strength­ened their ros­ter with the recent addi­tions; how­ev­er, oth­er than the Saad for Zadorov trade and the addi­tion of Toews they real­ly didn’t make the big splash that was antic­i­pat­ed. Main­ly, the sign­ing of Tay­lor Hall or Alex Pietrange­lo. Sakic, under­stand­ably, refus­es to dis­cuss a deal and/or nego­ti­a­tion that didn’t hap­pen. Do you have any insight on whether the Avs: A) made an offer to either of those guys, and b) do you have any info that they may still be look­ing for anoth­er for­ward that brings more “grit” to the posi­tion? In my opin­ion, the past Stan­ley Cup play­offs exposed their lack of tough­ness as Dal­las’ big guys pushed us around some­what.

— Dan Rish, Albu­querque, NM

Great ques­tions. First of all, yes, they need a third- or fourth-line grinder, a tough guy like Kyle Clif­ford or Matt Mar­tin, the lat­ter of whom is still on the mar­ket. Prob­lem is, the Avs are just $1.8 mil­lion under the salary cap — and that’s based on just 20 play­ers. They still need an extra for­ward and an extra D, or one or the oth­er. As for the trades for Saad and Toews, two bril­liant moves by Sakic and his staff. No, they didn’t make a big slash in agency but they didn’t have to — while mov­ing a play­er they no longer want­ed (Zadorov) and using only draft picks (two sec­ond-rounders) to get Toews. This was already a real­ly good team and Saad and Toews will fit in well. As for Hall and oth­ers, no, Sakic declined to say if he went after them. But I’m bet­ting he didn’t have a long con­ver­sa­tion with any­one.

Hi Mike, great talk­ing hock­ey with you via the mail­bag. With the start of hock­ey sea­son pushed back, what oth­er changes can we see the Avs mak­ing to bet­ter this team before the sea­son starts up? Thanks.

— Joe, Den­ver

Just a tough guy who can skate at depth for­ward, Joe. But we don’t know the extent of the injured guys. If some guys aren’t 100 per­cent, per­haps they con­tin­ue to tin­ker. A bud­dy saw Erik John­son play­ing golf with no brace or limp, etc., and we thought EJ might have blown out a knee in Game 1 against Dal­las. If every­one is cleared to begin camp, I don’t see them doing any­thing big. I have thought of one pos­si­bil­i­ty: Trad­ing Sam Girard if they think Byram is ready and just as good. That would free up more than $4 mil­lion in cap space (Girard begins his $5 mil­lion annu­al cap hit next sea­son and Byram is on his entry-lev­el con­tract at $894K). Prob­a­bly won’t hap­pen but the addi­tion of Toews def­i­nite­ly makes Girard some­what expend­able.

Dear Mr. Cham­bers. The Avs just acquired the most under rat­ed play­er in minor league hock­ey who will be the biggest sur­prise in the NHL this sea­son. I’ve watched col­lege hock­ey for decades and I’ve nev­er seen a smarter, more gift­ed, fast-deci­sion-mak­ing-and-scor­ing play­er ready for the NHL than Mike Vec­chione. I don’t know him per­son­al­ly, I’ve nev­er met, him, I don’t know his fam­i­ly nor do I know any­one who knows him….but I watched him play at Union Col­lege and then tak­en for grant­ed in the minors as an UFA. My ques­tion: wWill you remem­ber to write these words from your mail­bag when this young man scores goals in 10 con­sec­u­tive games this sea­son? Thank you.

— Michael J. Hal­lisey, M.D., Wethers­field, CT

Thank you, Dr. Hal­lisey. I’m with you on Vec­chione. I cov­ered DU at the 2017 Frozen Four when defense­man Will Butch­er won the Hobey Bak­er Award over Vec­chione and Zach Aston-Reese, who is play­ing for the Pen­guins. So when the Avs signed Vec­chione I did a lit­tle research and learned he had 21 goals in 61 AHL games last sea­son. He’s a right-shot goal-scor­er, and he wore the “C” for Union — so I have no idea why the Blues didn’t resign the guy. He signed a rel­a­tive­ly stan­dard one-year, two-way deal with Col­orado at $700K/$290K. Maybe the $290K was the best-guar­an­teed AHL offer he received. Any­way, yes, I’ll remem­ber this “con­ver­sa­tion” if Vec­chione becomes the play­er you fore­cast.

Mike, are there any updates on the 2021 sea­son and where the Avs are going to play? Will there be any games played here in Den­ver with fans in atten­dance? I know fans missed this team dur­ing the play­offs.

— Ken­ny, Lake­wood

Still all up in the air, Ken­ny. Sounds like they want to play in four tem­po­rary divi­sions, includ­ing an all-Cana­di­an loop, and play base­ball-like mini-series against the same team at home rinks. Just divi­sion­al games. But noth­ing has been final­ized and oth­er ideas are out there.

Hi Mike, with the Avs cel­e­brat­ing 25 years here in Den­ver, are there any plans for in-per­son games and cel­e­bra­tions? Do you see the team bring­ing back any play­ers from past cham­pi­onship teams to hon­or the his­to­ry of the fran­chise?

— Chris, Auro­ra

I sure do, Chris. I sus­pect Mr. Joe Sakic and the oth­er five guys with retired jer­seys will be spe­cial guests at a game or two. Adam Foote and Milan Hej­duk still live here, along with Sakic, by the way.

Mike, what can we expect from the Avs’ young prospects? Do you see any of them mak­ing the jump and hav­ing an impact on the team this com­ing sea­son? Feels like this team is in win-now mode and are hun­gry to win the Stan­ley Cup.

— Alexan­der, Cen­ten­ni­al

It’s absolute­ly win-now. Look up the Avs at CapFriendly.com and see the salary struc­ture. There is a win­dow and it’s def­i­nite­ly now, plus the next 2–3 years. As for prospects, I think Logan O’Connor will become a full-time third/­fourth-line for­ward and pri­ma­ry penal­ty killer. Please read above about Byram. Then Con­nor Tim­mins. Next year Alex Newhook. Hard to pre­dict if 18-year-old draft picks will pan out, but Newhook appears to be a steal at No. 16 in 2019.

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