The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey writing staff. Our writers, plus a special vote from the readers, ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 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.
Cale Makar was Colorado's first pick at fourth overall in the 2017 NHL entry draft. This selection is the highest the Avalanche have ever drafted a defenseman, the first defenseman they've drafted in the first round since Duncan Siemens in 2011 and the only first round draft class leading defenseman since Kevin Shatternkirk in 2007. Makar is a right shot, dynamic puck moving offensive defenseman with all the tools and then some to become an impact player at the next level. His skating and hockey IQ combine with the hands, creativity and shot to give Makar the total package as a top prospect for the Avalanche.
Makar started generating interest on the draft radar ever since he began play in the AJHL with the Brooks Bandits and earned AJHL Rookie of the Year and RBC Cup MVP honors in 2016. But it was his eight point performance in four games at the World Junior A Challenge, including a record breaking five point outing, that inspired the article and tweet from TSN's Bob McKenzie announcing Makar's arrival and the rest is history. He subsequently enjoyed a sparkling second half to his season finishing with 75 points and 24 goals in 54 games with Brooks and then went on to complete a nearly two month run through the playoffs, winning the Western Canada Cup and making it to the RBC Cup finals while along the way picking up hardware for AJHL MVP, AJHL playoff MVP, CJHL MVP and his second RBC Cup MVP.
The Avalanche must have seen the deeper similarities between Makar and Tyson Jost to make their second straight call to Tier II Junior A for their consecutive top ten draft selections. They were not afraid to call on Jost from Penticton in the BCHL at 10th overall and saw a similar pedigree in Makar. Jost also had ignited his draft stock at the World Junior A Challenge as the captain of Canada West and had also won the CJHL MVP award in 2016, which is awarded to the best player over 10 leagues and 132 teams in Canadian Junior Hockey League. The organization could be looking at Makar to continue to follow the same path as Jost of one year in school before joining the pro ranks as well.
Makar is expected to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst for at least one year before turning pro. He will step right away into a big role as "Makar will run our power play and play probably 30 minutes a night" head coach Greg Carvel remarked on the Pipeline Show. Hopefully an invitation to Team Canada for the World Junior Championship camp in December and subsequently to the roster is on the horizon as well. Makar will get ample opportunity to test himself against a higher competition level and hone in on his defensive development in both the NCAA and possibly on the biggest international stage for under 20-year-old players. He will also have a chance to add strength to his 5'11, 187 lb frame in college and get ready for professional hockey. If all goes well it wouldn't be out of the question to see Makar sign his entry level contract and get some games in at the NHL, or more likely the AHL level, before the end of the season. Avalanche fans won't have to wait long to see the most talented defensive prospect the organization has had in at least a decade but will still need just a touch of patience before that day arrives.