Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron has come a long way since being considered too small to play in the NHL. Standing at 5’7″ and around 153 pounds, Byron is one of the league’s smallest players. However, his blazing speed is among the league’s best which has brought him a long way. He is now a 20-goal scorer who brings something to the Habs game, every night.
Paul Byron: Speed and Hard Work Lead to Success
Before Joining the Montreal Canadiens
Byron has had a lot of obstacles to climb to be the 20-goal scorer he is today. It started early in his junior career, and unlike most NHLers today, he only started playing in the QMJHL his draft year. Despite, the disadvantage Byron was able to impress the Buffalo Sabres enough to select him in the sixth round in the 2007 drat.
His skills only improved as he continued developing under head coach Benoit Groulx with the Gatineau Olympiques. During his final season in the QMJHL, Byron scored 33 goals and 99 points leading the Olympiques in scoring.
In 2011, the Sabres traded Byron to the Calgary Flames, following a season where he got his first stint in the NHL. At that point, Byron seemed destined to be a career journeyman. During his first three seasons in the Flames organization, he spent his time bouncing from the AHL to the NHL.
Halfway through the 2013-14 season, Byron’s work ethic and speed helped him secure a full-time roster spot with the Flames. He proved that he could be great for the penalty kill and use his speed to get multiple breakaways. His best output with the Flames came that season when he put up seven goals and 21 points in 47 games. He followed that up with six goals and 19 points in 57 games in 2014-15.
During training camp in 2015, the Flames decided to put Byron on waivers. Despite, being a serviceable player for the Flames in his time with the team they didn’t see a fit in the NHL for him. The Canadiens saw an opportunity to add more character and speed and claimed the Ottawa native.
Paul Byron’s Progression
The Canadiens claimed Byron to add more forward depth in the organization. It was reported that the Habs scout staff saw a video on YouTube, that a Flames fan uploaded showing Byron’s inability to score on a breakaway. This sparked the Canadiens to put in a claim on the former Flames forward as they loved his speed.
Despite the Flames fan’s video, Byron has shown that he does have a scoring touch. He even scored his first goal as a Hab against his former team in a 6-2 victory, in which he added an assist. He finished his first season with the Habs scoring a career-best 11 goals in 62 games. So far this season, Byron has almost doubled that scoring his 20th of the season in his 71st game.
Byron has not only developed into a 20-goal scorer for the Canadiens but a very reliable two-way player. He reads the game very well, that complimented with his speed makes him a very dangerous penalty killer. Byron may go down as the best waiver pickup in the history of the Montreal Canadiens.
Where Byron’s Abilities Fit Best
Byron is the perfect player to play up and down the lineup. He has the defensive ability to help shut down opposing team’s best lines which makes him great to use in the middle-six forwards. He can also use his speed to play on the top line if needed. Currently he is playing alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher, and Byron is playing great hockey on the team’s second line. They have all been producing well for a second line finally giving Habs much needed secondary scoring.
However, come playoff time that line might be considered too small. Byron may not be one of the three most talented forwards on the team, but he can play on the top line. Earlier in the season, Byron played a pivotal role the speedster on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov. While his two more skilled linemates were flirting with a point per game, Byron was playing a useful role as a glue guy. In today’s NHL, it is all about duos, and then there are those players who serve effectively as the duo’s support. Byron seemed to serve as the glue that held the line together in the past.
Nonetheless, Byron was a genius pickup for the Canadiens on the waiver wire.