Cale Makar, at the age of 23, has cemented himself as one of the top defenseman in the NHL. Since he made his debut in the 2019 Playoffs, he has made an immediate impact for the Colorado Avalanche. Drafted fourth overall in the 2017 draft, Cale Makar has stepped up as the number one defenseman on the blue line for the Avs.
Having played 126 regular season games, he has quickly become one of the league’s elite players. In terms of his impact on the ice, he is currently the second best player on a Stanley Cup contender behind only Nathan MacKinnon. In his first two full seasons he has claimed the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year award, is close to a point-per-game player as a defenseman, and has two top-10 Norris Trophy finishes, including his second place spot losing to Adam Fox for the Norris trophy last season. He has compiled quite the NHL resume.
Barring injury, and assuming he maintains his current level of play, it seems like a certainty he will be a finalist again this season. As a Norris Trophy Candidate last year, he missed 12 games in a 56 game schedule and still managed to finish first in Goals Above Replacement among all defenseman. He finished fifth in total scoring, fifth in assists, fourth lowest penalty minutes, and fourth in power play scoring all among defenseman last season. His average of 1.00 points per game topped all blueliners in 2020-21 and marked the second time in Avalanche/Nordiques history a defenseman has produced at such a rate, after Steve Duchesne in 1992-93 (20-62—82 in 82 GP w/ QUE). This amazing play has carried over into this season. Analytically, Makar and Fox were super close in offensive and defensive impact. Makar was an offensive machine last season but Fox edged him out in the defensive metrics and his impact playing on the Rangers gave him the Norris.
Currently Makar is fourth in defenseman scoring but has 34 points in 29 games played. He has 16 goals and 18 assists with a 1.17 points per game putting on pace to reach 96 points. He also potentially is on pace for 30 goals, which could make him the first defenseman to reach that mark since 2009. Only eight different defensemen have ever reached that mark: Bobby Orr (5x), Paul Coffey (4x), Denis Potvin (3x), Ray Bourque, Kevin Hatcher, Doug Wilson, Phil Housley, and Mike Green (1x each). Only two of these players have done it since 1990. Those being Hatcher (1992-93) and Green (2008-09). If he keeps up this place he could be both in the Norris and potential Hart nominations.
In comparison to the rest of the 2017 draft class, Makar stands out. Makar is third in scoring (125 points) following only Nico Hischier (167) and Elias Pettersson (170 points). Managing to keep solid pace as a defenseman. In playoff scoring Makar leads the way compared to all his peers.
Makar: 35 GP – 31 PTS
Heiskanen: 40 GP – 30 PTS
Suzuki: 32 GP – 23 PTS
Pettersson: 17 GP – 18 PTS
Thomas: 33 GP – 12 PTS
Necas: 19 GP – 9 PTS
Patrick: 6 GP – 2 PTS
Hischier: 5 GP – 1 PT
Skill and talent unmatched at his position Makar was a prospect to drool over. A former World Junior Champion and a great player coming out of UMass. Scouts raved over Makar and his amazing skating and offensive ability as a defenseman. Elite Prospects stated that,
“Many have called Cale Makar one of the purest talents to ever crop up out of the AJHL. He reads and executes plays quickly, making good things happen for his teammates every time he is out on the ice. Stickhandling and puck possession play is superb. Makes high percentage decisions that help his team move the puck up-ice. High-end hockey IQ and understands his own game very well, allowing him to stay coachable and play to his strengths in any situation. Makar’s potential is that of a traditional franchise defender that can do it all.” [EP 2017]
His skill set, intellect, build, and feel for the game make him invaluable to his team or any team. The way he commands games, skates effortlessly, moves the puck throughout all 200ft of ice, and creates plays out of thin air makes him one of the best players at his position. Even at such a young age Cale is undeniably a defenseman every team wishes they would have. Many have already considered to be the potential first overall selection in a lot of re-drafts of the 2017 Draft. So far so that even former Flyers legend Bobby Clarke was quoted saying the Flyers organization were super high on drafting Makar second overall.
“None of our scouts wanted Nolan Patrick. They wanted Makar.” Bobby Clarke via the Cam & Strick Podcast stated on the draft situation, “Hextall made that choice himself, and there were other choices in that draft we ‘re paying for. We’ve got two or three first round picks that are never going to play. That’s why we’re struggling. Hexy made some huge mistakes.” Nolan Patrick, the Flyers former second overall pick was traded to Vegas in a three way trade this offseason. Shows just how much impact Makar has made in Colorado and around the league since being drafted in 2017.
Importance of his presence and skill on the Colorado blue line make him an invaluable player. The cream of the crop as a playmaker, he is an offensive play driver who is lethal on the power-play. Smart in his own end even though he is anchored by Devin Toews, Makar is crafty and responsible on his own end. A solid defender at 5v5, he shines as a skater and a creator in the offensive end both in generating chances for his teammates and scoring.
Makar every game this season proves just how amazing he is as a member of the Colorado Avalanche and as an NHL player. If I had the chance to vote in the season NHL awards, Makar would be my vote for the Norris. A game changer at any time during a game, he is the type of player who can define how you win games. A defenseman to build a championship tier defense core around, he is also a franchise and potential generational talent at his position. Makar with his skill on such a deep and talented roster like the Avalanche will make them lethal for postseason contention. He is still so young and talented, he’ll continue to wow fans inside and out. Just like he left the Blackhawks defense a couple nights ago in overtime. https://youtu.be/hbIvWYDpvJ4
All. Hail. Cale.