UMass’ Makar selected fourth by Avs

  • Cale Makar puts on a Colorado Avalanche jersey after being selected fourth in the draft on Friday. ap photo

For The Recorder
Friday, June 23, 2017

Cale Makar’s season-long rise in stature peaked Friday.

The Colorado Avalanche selected the UMass commitment with the No. 4 pick in the NHL Draft.

No UMass player had ever been taken in the first round before. He’s the highest drafted player ever from the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Wearing his new Avalanche cap and jersey, he admitted he was nervous leading up to his selection.

“I had a little bit of anxiousness and excitement. My heart was pumping throughout the day,” he said. “I’m here for the experience. It’s been a great couple of days.”

His new team seemed pleased to select him.

“We’re excited to add Cale to our organization,” said Avalanche director of amateur scouting Alan Hepple in a story on the Avalanche’s web site. “He’s a very good skater, a very good puck-mover. Very good puck management. Offensive upside with a great shot and great vision.”

NHL teams retain draft right to college players throughout their careers. While UMass fans have been worried that Makar might change his mind about attending college, the Calgary, Alberta native told reporters at the draft in Chicago that he was excited to get to Amherst to prepare for his first collegiate season.

“My goal when I get to UMass is to be the No. 1 defenseman there. I know when I get to UMass they’re going to give me every opportunity to pursue that,” he said. “I’m going to have time off the ice to hopefully get bigger and stronger. My time there is hopefully going to shape me into an NHL player.”

Makar said he didn’t have a timetable for how long he planned to stay at UMass.

“It’s going to depend on how I develop. My intention is to play in the NHL when I’m ready,” he said. “Whenever I feel I’m ready and the organization feels I’m ready, hopefully I can make that jump.”

Pressed again on the same topic, he gave a little more.

“One or two years at UMass,” he said. “But it’s going to depend on how I develop.”

While he is there, Makar said he liked the idea of being part of UMass’ recent tradition of producing successful NHL players and hoped to help bring the program to another level.

“The new coaching staff is taking the program in a new direction,” Makar said. “I’m excited for the team on the ice next year. I’m excited for the challenge. They’re going to get a lot more fans in with a new team.

You look at some of the alums they’ve produced with (Justin) Braun, (Jonathan) Quick and (Conor) Sheary, the cup champion. It’s going to be an exciting time for the team I think.”

Craig Button of TSN, Canada’s all-sports network, projected a promising future for Makar:

“I’m not saying he’s Erik Karlsson because we’re talking about a superstar and one of the great defensemen of his era, but (Makar) plays the game like that,” Button said. “He’s dynamic into the attack with the puck, making plays. He’s really, really top-notch. I think everything he has translates to the next level.”

Makar, 18, had 75 points on 24 goals and 51 assists to lead the Brooks Bandits to the Alberta Junior Hockey League title. He was the league’s top scoring defensemen, 23 points ahead of the next closest blue-liner.

Makar’s play in Brooks, a strong showing at the World Junior A Challenge and the dearth of puck-moving defensemen helped rocket Makar from a borderline first-round pick to the second defenseman taken overall.

Makar was ranked No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters (non-goalies), which made him the highest defenseman on the list.