BROSSARD, Que. — Paul Byron is not a colossus, but the Montreal Canadiens forward is not as tiny as the NHL records would have you believe.
Listed at five-foot-seven 153 pounds, Byron is in fact at least five-foot-nine and says he is about 170 pounds, which looked about right as he met with the media in the Canadiens locker room after his first practice with his new team.
“I think that came from when I was 17,” said the 26-year-old who was claimed off waivers from the Calgary Flames this week after right winger Zack Kassian was put into a substance abuse program by the league.
Byron and new backup goalie Michael Condon are expected to see their first action as the Canadiens play back-to-back in Boston on Saturday and Ottawa on Sunday, followed by a game Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Coach Michel Therrien said Condon will start in Ottawa, even though he is from the Boston area. He had yet to decide which game Ottawa native Byron would play.
What he lacks in size, Byron makes up in speed and grit, drawing comparisons to Brendan Gallagher, another smaller-than-average Montreal winger.
Defenceman Jeff Petry saw plenty of Byron when he played for the Edmonton Oilers before joining the Canadiens in a trade late last season.
“He plays much bigger than he is and he has skill and speed,” said Petry. “He’s a guy like Gallagher.
“He’s not the biggest guy but he’s got a lot of heart. He goes into the tough areas.”
The Flames, who are trying to get bigger, put Byron on waivers after he missed the start of camp with a wrist injury. He was also coming off groin surgery in May.
Byron saw mostly fourth line duty in Calgary, but also got time on the second and third units. He had seven goals and 21 points in 47 games in 2013-14 and had six goals and 19 points in 57 outings last season.
A benefit of the move is that he is closer to home.
“Growing up in Ottawa and playing for Gatineau in the Quebec (junior) league, I know what to expect,” he said. “I know I have to bring some jam and effort every night.”
Condon, 25, beat out Dustin Tokarski for the job as back-up to Carey Price with a solid training camp and a strong 2014-15 campaign in the AHL, where he split duties with veteran Joey MacDonald.
The Canadiens signed him an undrafted free agent out of Princeton University in 2013 and extended his contract by two years in February.
After not allowing a goal in two pre-season games, he’s ready for his first real taste of NHL hockey.
“Not to put too much pressure on myself, just play: That’s been the mantra all training camp,” said Condon. “All the work’s been put in, so all I can do is have fun and not think too much.
“There’s no thinking for me, just reacting. Shutting the brain off.”
And even though he doesn’t get to start in Boston, he will at least get to see one the NHL’s fiercest rivalries at ice level.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the energy in that building.
“I’ve got a lot of friends and family from the area giving me heat, but this is the team that gave me my opportunity, so I love this place.”
He and Price are still getting to know one another. Earlier this week, Price quipped of Condon that “at least we have one thing in common (being goalies), so we should find something to talk about.”
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press