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Avalanche defensemen Bo Byram and Erik Johnson cut from same vintage cloth

14 years separate the two Colorado Avalanche defensemen, but Bowen Byram and Erik Johnson share more similarities than not.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — There's one guy behind the Colorado Avalanche blue line who's been skating in the pros for quite a while.

"You can say a while ago, it was 15 years ago, it wasn't a couple of years ago. It was a long time ago," Erik Johnson said about his debut.

After being traded to the Avs in February 2011, he's the longest tenured professional in all of Denver sports, beating his teammate and captain Gabriel Landeskog by four months. 

Even though Johnson's line mate is 14 years his junior, he and Bowen Byram were cut from the same vintage cloth. 

"He's kind of got an old school soul," Johnson said. "He's happy-go-lucky and he's so young, but he's kind of got that throwback style to him, how he is off the ice."

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Credit: AP
St. Louis Blues left wing Brandon Saad (20) tries to collect the puck as Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram (4) and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) cover in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Byram was selected fourth-overall by the Avalanche in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut on January 21, 2021 and played only 19 games in the 2021 season.

"I think if he played all year, he'd be in the running for rookie of the year, I really do," Johnson said. "He's so talented, skates so well, I'm picking things up from his game that I think I can help my game with and it's just been a treat to play with him, I've enjoyed it a lot."

"I feel like we kind of think the game the same way, he talks a lot on the ice so it makes it easy on the defensive end of the ice," Byram said. "Nothing but great things to say about him and playing with him is a treat, as well."

Their bond extended to their unfortunate shared experience with head injuries. Johnson missed nearly the entirety of 2021 with concussion symptoms. Byram, who considered retirement after his third concussion in his brief NHL career, leaned on his mentor.

"He's been through some longer term injuries as well, so he knew that at that point in time, I just needed some space and to figure some things out on my own, but he was always there," Byram said.

Now, Byram feels confident again on his feet and in the boards.

"I've been hit pretty hard a couple of times so I'm really confident in how I'm feeling right now and how my head's feeling," he said.

The nearly 21-year-old wrapped up the first Stanley Cup Playoff round in his young career, but he hopes to help erase a championship drought for this franchise later this summer. The last title came just four days before he was born.

"I seen a tweet about that the other day and I got a chuckle out of it," Byram said. "It would be nice to win a Cup here and I think we're on a good pace. Obviously, we can't look too far ahead, we need to beat St. Louis, and that's our main focus right now. We want to ramp up and get ready for Game One."

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Credit: AP
Colorado Avalanche right wing Nicolas Aube-Kubel, second from right, is congratulated on his goal by, from far left, defenseman Erik Johnson, center Andrew Cogliano and defenseman Bowen Byram during the first period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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