It wasn't until a breakout game in the World Jr. A Challenge this past December that scouts had the chance to see what Calgary native and Brooks Bandits defenceman Cale Makar was all about. He had a tournament record-setting game for a defenceman by putting up five points in Canada West's opening game.
Makar accumulated a long list of accolades and awards during his 2015-16 AJHL championship season with the Brooks Bandits including AJHL Rookie of the Year, AJHL All-Rookie Team, AJHL All-Star Team, RBC Cup MVP, RBC Cup Top Scorer and RBC Cup Top defenceman among many others. He added to those awards following this past season with a repeat AJHL Championship season, winning the AJHL MVP and top defenceman awards, RBC Cup MVP and RBC Cup Top Defenceman honours (the first player to win these twice, let along back to back), and was also named the RBC Canadian Junior Hockey League National Player of the Year.
However, none of those accolades can compare to the day Makar had on Friday night when he heard his name called by Colorado Avalanche legend Joe Sakic at 4th overall in the NHL Draft.
"To be honest, I don't think it's quite sunk in yet. It seems cliché, but I'm kind of speechless right now. You don't know what's going to happen and when it finally does, you don't know what to feel," Makar said minutes after being drafted in a rather large media scrum in the NHL Draft interview room.
After a huge buzz hours before the draft that the Vegas Golden Knights may be interested moving up to #1, Makar became a name being thrown out there as a possible top three pick. However, it was the Vancouver Canucks who were highly interested in moving up from their 5th spot to take Makar but in the end it was the Avalanche who took Makar at 4th overall.
"I met with the Avalanche at the combine, but they didn't give me any indication they were taking me for sure. I was just coming here and waiting to see what happened," Makar said. "I know that Joe Sakic played there way back when, but other than that, I haven't looked up the Avalanche too much."
Makar indicated he was still 100% committed to the NCAA University of Massachusetts-Amherst even though Amherst just hired an entirely new coaching staff.
"I'm still going to UMass next season and I couldn't be more excited to do that. They brought in some new coaches but they're going to be exceptional. I think we're bringing in 11 new freshmen and it's going to be a whole new culture there and I'm just excited for the challenge and to get started with something new," Makar said.
The Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers hold his CHL rights.
When asked if he is ready to step into the Avalanche lineup right away, he pointed at the parts of his game that he needs to work on in order to be comfortable in an NHL lineup.
"I'm going to (hopefully) get a little bigger and a little bit of time in the NCAA is going to hopefully shape me into an NHL player. I think that's why the NCAA is going to be a great path for me and especially UMASS," Makar said, "The timetable for me is going to depend on how I develop. My intention is to play in the NHL when I'm ready, whenever I feel I'm ready, and whenever my organization feels I'm ready."
Makar is now the highest drafted player in AJHL history, surpassing Avalanche forward Joe Colborne, who was selected 16th overall in 2008 by the Boston Bruins before joining Denver University. He is the second highest CJHL drafted player right after BCHL alum Kyle Turris who was drafted 3rd overall to the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2007 NHL Draft.
Makar had been gaining momentum the past few weeks which included an ESPN.com draft ranking that had him as the #1 draft prospect. When he was asked about his ranking and he momentum he was gaining, he answered humbly.
"I'm not a guy that goes out and looks at any of that stuff, especially during the season. I was coming in here looking at it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I never knew what as going to happen, it was just fun to sit in the stands," Makar said.
With steady development and the motivation to improve on his overall game and conditioning, Makar may end up being the best player drafted in the first round.
"The way I see the draft is that's it's not going to matter where you get picked. People aren't going to look at that but rather what you did after the draft. Nobody is going to care what you did before, so it's all about how you're going to carry yourself afterward and where you're going to go, and I've had a great couple of days in Chicago," Makar said.
Scouting Report on Makar:
Has really turned heads and dropped jaws with his offensive capability. Likes to skate the puck deep into the offensive zone and create offense. Possesses a real heavy, hard wrist shot and likes to shoot often from between the circles. Phenomenal skater who can get up and down ice closing sizeable gaps to get back into position after pinching in. Follows up his passes ensuring he hits outlet pass right on the tape. Great ice coverage and constantly moving around the ice looking to make a play. Has good offensive instincts but knows his defensive responsibilities come first.
Comparable to Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson and projects as a first pairing defenceman with an offensive mindset who can contribute on both the power play and penalty kill.
ISS final ranking on Makar was #9 and he was drafted #4 to Colorado Avalanche.Back to Top
1) John Dean Returns to OJHL to Coach Toronto Patriots
2) Off-Season Brings About Massive Turnover for OHL Coaches
3) Justin Sourdif Named 2017 HockeyNow Player of the Year for B.C.
4) Where Are They Now: 2016 Player of the Year Owen Lalonde
5) Former NHLer Jason York Now Part of Kemptville 73’s Ownership Group