The Montreal Canadiens hit the jackpot when claiming Paul Byron off waivers. That, everybody knows. But it hasn’t always been easy for the undersized speedster, who has been told too many times that he wouldn’t be making it to the show. Too small and not heavy enough were the reasons he was given each time. But that didn’t stop him from pushing the envelope, proving doubters wrong and that, at every level that he’s played.
Let’s go back in time. It’s June 22nd, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. In Nationwide Arena, it is with great anticipation that hundreds of young men aspiring to, one day, fulfil their dream to play in the NHL are attending the league’s 45th Entry Draft. Patrick Kane is the first name being called to the podium, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks. But it’s on the second day of the Draft that Paul Byron heard his name… finally. We are in the sixth round and 178 prospects have been called. It’s the Buffalo Sabres’ turn and they called Byron. Step one of the dream had finally come through.
On January 23, 2011, called up from Rochester, Byron played in his first NHL game against the New York Islanders in Long Island. He managed to record his first point, an assist, in his first game. Two days later, he scored his first NHL goal in his hometown, in Ottawa, against the Senators. He ended up playing six more games with the Sabres that season and was traded to Calgary on June 25th of that year, along with Chris Butler in exchange for Ales Kotalik, Robyn Regehr and a 2012 2nd round pick .
On October 5, 2015, looking to add toughness to their line-up, Flames’ management decided to try sending the Ottawa native down to the AHL and placed him on waivers. Not only didn’t he go down that season, but he has never even come close to being sent back down after the Canadiens put in a claim for him. Byron ended up playing 130 games with the Flames, managing 16 goals and 46 points in Cowtown. To this date, this waiver claim figures amongst GM Marc Bergevin‘s best hockey decisions since taking over the reigns in Montreal.
An impact player
Byron has some good memories of Columbus. Not only did he get drafted in that City, but he also just played his 400th game in the NHL against the Blue Jackets and to commemorate the milestone, he scored his 11th goal of the season in that game, helping his team edge Columbus by the score of 3-2.
Paul Byron is a warrior. Listed at 5-foot 9-inches and 163 lbs (those numbers might be generous), he has managed 64 goals and 116 points in 262 games with the Canadiens. Along with Brendan Gallagher, Byron is part of the Habs’ leadership group as an Assistant to team Captain Shea Weber. His relentless work ethics and the way he conducts himself on and off the ice, his outstanding defensive ability, his blazing speed and fearless attitude make of him a genuine impact player for the most storied franchise of the NHL.
Many would venture to say that he is likely one of the most underrated players not only on the Canadiens, but in the entire NHL. One thing we know for sure: management and coaches love him, fans love him and he genuinely loves playing in Montreal. Here’s hoping that he can be surrounded by quality player and raise the Stanley Cup over his head one day, wearing the red, white and blue number 41. Go Habs Go!