It’s no secret I consider the return for Robyn Regehr underwhelming. Chris Butler and Paul Byron are players that strike me as the type of assets that are freely available at any given point in any given off-season. There was a whole collection of guys superior to Byron recently not qualified by their teams for instance.
That said, the return is what it is so we might as well take a closer look at the players coming back. First up is 22-year old Paul Byron. The smallish forward prospect was a former 6th rounder by Buffalo in 2007. He scored 21 goals and 44 points as a rookie in his draft year for the Gatinuea Olympiques of the QMJHL. He progressed rapidly during his time in junior, garnering 37 goals and 68 points in his sophomore season before topping out at 33 goals and 99 points in 2008-09.
Byron’s rookie season in the AHL was unremarkable, with the kid scoring 14 goals and 39 points in 57 games. Tyler Ennis was a rookie on the same squad that year and he managed 23 and 65 points. The promotions of Nathan Gerbe and the aforementioned Ennis last season meant a bit more opportunity for Byron and his output jumped up to 26 goals and 53 points in 67 games as a result.
His 0.79 PPG pace as a 21-year old is good but not great, and certainly does’t scream "future impact NHLer". At 21-years old, the NHL equivalency rate is about 0.47 according to Scott Reynolds. If we multiply that by Byron’s scoring pace, we get an NHLE of 0.371 or a projected 30 point season over a full 82 NHL game schedule.
Again, not great but not bad and certainly superior to what any of the Flames forward prospects managed in the AHL last season. Byron’s play earned him a cup of coffee in the bigs where he was completely sheltered (zone start rato = 63%) and he marginally kept his head above water possession wise (+3.64 corsi/60). Naturally, the sample size is too small to really take much from these numbers.
Byron is young eough that he might reasonably take another step in the AHL next season. If it’s a big step, he could become a viable NHL player. That said, he’s also a couple years away from becoming a tweener for life: almost any forward who doesn’t make the dance as a regular by the time he’s 24 in the modern NHL is probably a replacement level player at best. There are very rare exceptions (Dustin Penner), but in general anyone not skating in the big league by 23/24 years-old can probably be relegated to the "bust" section of the prospect cupboard.
Byron will make a welcome addition to the Heat, who were as punchless a team that existed in the AHL last season. I don’t expect Byron to seriously challenge for a spot on the Flames, but another step forward would go a long way to moving him to the top of the list of potential call-ups.