Paul Byron, the Montreal Canadiens Secret Weapon

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montreal canadiens secret weapon
MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 12: Paul Byron #41 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on December 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Paul Byron, the Montreal Canadiens new secret weapon, has been providing the Habs with scoring depth this season. After signing a three-year contract midway through last season, many argued that the Ottawa native did not deserve a long-term contract. He has proved that he’s worth every penny of the $3.5 million owed to him by the end of the contract.

Paul Byron, the Montreal Canadiens Secret Weapon

Not-So-Speedy Start

Like most depth NHL players, Byron did not have a glamorous start to his career. He spent parts of the four seasons with the Calgary Flames, never scoring more than seven goals, nor playing in more than 60 games.  After losing his spot in Calgary’s lineup right before the start of the 2015-2016 season, general manager Marc Bergevin claimed Byron off waivers.

With the Canadiens last year, Byron set new highs for goals scored, with 11, and games played, with 62. He showed why Bergevin picked him up, because of his speed. Byron earned the nickname “Breakaway” from fans in Calgary because of his top-end speed and ability to create breakaways.

However, Byron rarely scored on those breakaways, so a fan made a video of him missing 10 breakaways. The video has nearly 45,000 views on YouTube, some of which are from the Canadiens management staff. Habs Assistant General Manager Larry Carriere said him and the rest of the management saw the video before claiming Byron.

Luckily for Byron and the Canadiens, he’s been able to find the back of the net on breakaways in Montreal. He blew by defensemen with ease and scored five of his 11 goals last year with him alone against the goalie. Three of his goals came on shorthanded breakaways. Just watch his explosive speed in a video compilation of his goals last year.

Many questioned why Bergevin inked Byron for three years last February. At the time of his signing, Byron had played in 40 games and had scored eight goals and three assists. Head coach Michel Therrien used Byron sporadically in the first half of the season, playing him under 13 minutes a night. He excelled in the second half of the season when players went down with injuries, and has continued that play this year.

Excelling His Play in 2016-2017

Byron has become an invaluable piece to this Montreal Canadiens offence. Already through 29 games, Byron has 10 goals and seven assists. He is well on his way to setting a career-high in points, which he set 2013-2014 with 21. He is tied for sixth-most points on the team with Brendan Gallagher, and is second behind Max Pacioretty for the most goals. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a 20-goal scorer by season’s end.

Byron boasts a 52.9 Corsi-for percentage, and 60.6 Goals-for percentage, fifth-most amongst regular forwards on the Habs. He also has a point in 75% of goals in which he has been on the ice during 5-on-5 play. His most surprising number is his 2.71 points/60 minutes, which not only leads the Habs, but is eighth-most in the NHL for forwards with more than 200 minutes played. Talk about productivity.

Versatility

What makes Byron a special player is his ability to play all four lines. He has the speed and skill to play top-line minutes as he did with Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov. The trio produced fantastic numbers together, with a 55.3 CF% and 58.3 GF%, before Galchenyuk went down with an injury. Byron also has the ability to play on a scoring third or fourth line, but he isn’t afraid of getting in the dirty areas of the ice.

With the injuries to the Canadiens right now, having a versatile player like Byron is key. Not many players will play on all four lines, not complain about it, and produce similar numbers throughout.

With a three-year, $3.5-million contract signed, Byron could be a key piece to the Habs for a few years. He is the type of player that a coach needs throughout a grudging regular season, but becomes invaluable in the playoffs. Byron has yet to play a playoff game, and should the Habs make the playoffs this year, his speed could be the Montreal Canadiens secret weapon.

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