Young Norris contender only getting better
The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eight writers have ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2021 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
Player: Cale Makar
Weight: 187 lbs
Likely 2021-22 team: Colorado Avalanche
Final Rank: #1
2019 Rank: #3
High Rank: #1 (Jackie, Tom, Hardev, Luke, Patrick, Alex M)
Low Rank: #2 (Adrian, Evan)
Colorado Avalanche: 44 GP, 8G, 36A
After weeks of analysis on many different and exciting players in the Avs organization, number one is finally here. And who else other than the 22-year-old stud defenceman himself, Cale Makar. Makar’s age and ability to grow even more is what set him over the edge of Mikko Rantanen for number one in this poll.
Not to mention, at just 22, Makar is already a top defenceman in the entire league. He had a legitimate argument for the Norris Trophy last year and should absolutely be among the favourites heading into 2021-22. That’s how special he is. Makar’s development and immediate dominance in this league has exceeded basically everyone’s expectations, likely including the Avs front office. The scariest part? He has two more years on this list.
Makar and Development
Cale Makar was drafted fourth overall by the Avs back in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. After he was drafted, the Canadian decided not to go the CHL route but instead committed to UMass-Amherst where he put up 21 points in 34 games during his first season. He followed that up with 49 points in 41 games the following year. When his College season ended, Makar went pro while the Avs were in a playoff run.
People were undecided if he should play, questioning whether a player’s debut being in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was too much to ask for. However, Makar stepped right in and looked dominant from the start, throwing up six points in 10 playoff games. The Avs were eliminated in the second round but Makar had something to build off of.
2019-20 was a lot of the same, with Makar stepping right in and fitting almost seamlessly into the league. He won the Calder trophy and had 50 points in 57 games. In last year’s shortened season, he took yet another step. Going point per game, Makar was right in the mix for the Norris all year long. Deservedly so too.
Where to go from here?
The biggest question is, what’s next? It is a scary thought that at 22 he could keep getting better, but that is the reality. Already last season Avs fans saw a jump in Makar’s all-around game. He became more and more comfortable in his own end. Whether that be picking up his man or moving the puck under pressure. The offensive abilities have always been there, but what is really setting Makar apart now is his ability to be a threat in all zones.
He’s not a “shut down” guy by any means, but considering how strong he is offensively and helping transition the puck, the fact that he is even just above average in his own end puts him among the elite in the NHL.
Above is Makar’s two seasons, both unfortunately shortened from a play driving standpoint. There isn’t a thing he is bad at. Playing with talented teammates such as Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon on the powerplay also obviously helps, however, Makar is a big part of this too. The way he distributes the puck along with his threat of a shot makes him a great option as a PP quarterback.
It has been amazing to watch Makar grow already, if he can take yet another step it may legitimately put him in the generational tier of defencemen. Very high praise, yes, but he is that special. However, even if this is what Makar peaks as absolutely no one will complain. Last year Makar was easily a top-five defenceman in the league by just about any metric you can look at.
His elite skill and young age are why he tops our Top 25 Under 25 list this year. The Avs will be counting on him to be a key contributor for many years as they look to get over the hump in the playoffs. That will be the ultimate next step for him and the team. Regular-season success is great, but playoff success is what matters. However, Avalanche fans have a special one in Cale Makar.
#3: Samuel Girard
#4: Bowen Byram
#5: Alex Newhook
#6: Tyson Jost
#8 Sampo Ranta
#9 Martin Kaut
t10 Jean-Luc Foudy
t10 Logan O’Connor
#12 Justus Annunen
#13: Oskar Olausson
#14: Shane Bowers
#15: Drew Helleson
#16: Sean Behrens
#17: Mikhail Maltsev
#18: Alex Beaucage
#19: Trent Miner
#20: Colby Ambrosio
#21: Dennis Gilbert
#22: Daniil Zhuravlyov
#23: Tyler Weiss
#24: Nikolai Kovalenko
#25: Nick Henry