“Like he’s been here since the first day of the season,” Byram quickly fitting in

After joining the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline, Bowen Byram is already well acquainted with some of his new teammates.

“Like he’s been here since the first day of the season,” Byram quickly fitting in

Feature photo: Getty Images

Bowen Byram’s first game with the Buffalo Sabres brought back memories of his NHL debut.

The common thread between March 7, 2024, and Jan. 21, 2021, came down to one familiar feeling.

“I was pretty nervous before both of those games,” the 22-year-old defenceman said of his first game with the Sabres after being traded at the deadline from the Colorado Avalanche.

“My first NHL game a little over three years ago, I can remember how the nerves kicked in in the hours before the puck dropped. And my first game with Buffalo, it was very much the same feeling.

“When it comes to those first games, you want to play well, and you want to show that you belong.”

Byram could not have scripted the performance he gave in his Sabres debut any better. On his third shift in a road tilt against the Nashville Predators, Byram fired home a wrister to score with his first shot on net. His longtime friend, Peyton Krebs, notched an assist on the tally and Byram went on to factor on both goals scored by the Sabres that night, making it a two-point outing with a third-period assist.

In the very next matchup, his first home game at KeyBank Center, Byram was awarded the post-game Sabre by another close friend, Dylan Cozens.

He picked up his second multi-point performance with the club in just his third game, earning the game’s first star after scoring two goals while leading all skaters with 23:14 TOI in a 7-3 win for the Sabres.

Although it has been less than a handful of games it’s when safe to say the smooth-skating Byram, taken fourth overall by Colorado in the 2019 NHL Draft, has had no trouble fitting in with his new teammates and old friends.

Cozens and Byram, who were selected three picks apart in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, previously played together on under-18 and under-17 teams for Canada before winning gold at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship and earning silver in the following year’s edition as co-captains.

Krebs, taken 17th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019, also played on the 2021 world junior team with Byram and Cozens.

“Getting traded, it can be a big shock and be a tough time, but coming to Buffalo where I have some good friends and knew some of the guys, it made things a lot easier,” said Byram.

“Everyone has been really good to me and made me feel very welcome. There are a lot of guys around the same age as me, which makes the transition a lot easier too.”

Byram’s elite skating abilities and up-tempo, high-energy game have already yielded positive results and Cozens and Krebs are not the only ones happy to have the British Columbia-born blueliner in the fold.

“It was great how quickly Bo was able to jump into the lineup and not look out of place,” said Sabres forward Alex Tuch. “His high-end skill and hockey IQ have been very impressive. He’s also fit right in with the guys like he’s been here since the first day of the season.”

Byram, a member of the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup-winning squad in 2022, is focused on making more than just a strong early impression with the Sabres.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

“Buffalo is a great sports town. All the guys have been telling me that and what a great place it is,” the young defenceman offered. “We’re hoping that in the near future we can give the fans what they are hoping for. They love their team, so that is something else that is very exciting about being here.”

“Coming to a team where we have a lot of good young players and a lot of good established players, you can see it is a team on the rise.

“I am excited to do what I can to help the team get into the playoffs and achieve what we want to do as a group.”

Byram is feeling more at ease each day.

Having his two dogs by his side has also helped him navigate the move to a new NHL city.  

“There are so many things that you are not used to. But it has been a lot of fun playing and getting to know the guys. Everyone has welcomed me and made me feel very comfortable. It’s been a great start here.

“Hanging out, relaxing, watching TV the dogs also keep me pretty busy away from the rink it’s not too hard to get away from things for a little bit and just unwind from it all.”

Hockey-wise, Byram is fully embracing the newest chapter in his life on the ice.

“I still think I have a lot to prove in the NHL as a player. I am really excited to be here and with the opportunity they have given me, I want to show everyone what kind of player I am.

“I am extremely grateful for that opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.”