Paul Byron has quietly emerged as one of Montreal’s more consistent secondary scorers in recent years. That makes him a potentially intriguing option when rounding out a Fantasy Hockey team.
Byron spent a good part of the start of the season on the third line to give Jesperi Kotkaniemi a bit of a safety valve when it came to his defence. Despite that, he got off to a pretty start offensively with seven points in 11 games before a lower-body injury took him out for the better part of a month.
Hoping that his production would carry over when moved up the lineup, Byron flipped places with Artturi Lehkonen for a little while not long after his return. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and before long, he was dropped back down with Andrew Shaw getting a longer look in the top six (a move that worked out quite well for the Habs).
The second half of the campaign was a bit rocky. He had a three-game suspension and three separate injuries. On top of that, he was moved around a lot as Claude Julien was trying to use Byron as a catalyst to help get lines going. The yo-yoing certainly didn’t help the cause but with a dozen points between February and March, his production was pretty steady.
From a special teams perspective, Byron was on the second unit on both the power play and penalty kill. Unfortunately, he was not particularly strong on the man advantage; in 60:18 of playing time, he managed just one assist. His presence there was baffling at times and it’s something they probably should stay away from next season.
Season Stats: 56 GP, 15 goals, 16 assists, 31 points, +16 rating, 17 PIMS, 0 PPG, 3 GWG, 94 shots, 14:34 ATOI, 52.8 CF%
5 Year Averages
As the roster stands, Byron has to be considered one of the contenders to fill Shaw’s now-vacated role, potentially alongside Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi. His speed would allow that group to play at a really fast pace, something the Habs really tried to do last season.
Having said that, there’s a good chance that Byron’s role will resemble the one he has had basically the last couple of season. He’ll be moved up and down the lineup routinely and will probably have played with just about everyone by the end of the year considering that the team is comfortable using him on both wings.
Without any significant additions up front, Byron is probably going to continue to get a look on the power play although I really hope I’m wrong on this one. (He’s best utilized in transition and it’s very rare that there are transition opportunities on a power play.) He’s likely still on the second wave shorthanded as well. All in all, he should hover around the 14-16 minute per night mark which has been the range for him over each of the past three seasons.
When the Habs claimed Byron off waivers, no one thought he’d be a 20-goal, 40-point player. Then when he did it, hardly anyone thought he’d do it twice. He did. Byron would have made it three years in a row had it not been for the injuries as he was on that pace last season. With that in mind, it would certainly be justifiable to have him in that range again.
I won’t go quite that high, however. He’s still going to spend a lot of time in the bottom six and while I think he’s a much more effective player in that role, it doesn’t also lend itself well towards getting points even if the bottom six is improved from a year ago. When it comes to the power play, even if he’s out there, he won’t produce much there either.
While that all sounds negative though, I still have him in the 35-39 point range. Byron’s speed is still going to be a weapon and he scores on enough of his breakaways that he’ll still be a productive part of the team and one that should find his way into fantasy lineups in some situations.
For most leagues, he’s a good late add for ones with 16 or more teams. (Anything with fewer teams, he’s probably better off on the waiver wire where he could become a speculative add when he inevitably moves up the lineup.) Give him a small boost for pools with hits as a category given Montreal’s generous definition of what constitutes a hit but on the flip side, he needs to be dropped down the rankings for ones that count shots as he does not like to shoot often although he did improve a bit in that regard last year. If by some chance he grabs a hold of a top-six role and runs with it, there is still a tiny bit of sleeper potential so he’s worth keeping an eye on.