Yesterday, Corey Pronman - prospects writer at The Athletic - released his list of Top-50 NHL prospects and there were two names that should look pretty familiar to Colorado Avalanche fans. Both Cale Makar (12) and Conor Timmins (46) were listed among the best drafted prospect in hockey.
The 19-year old defenders have been in the spotlight recently as they helped Team Canada win the gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship earlier this month. Makar led the tournament in scoring by a defenseman and Timmins was Canada’s best all-around defender.
As the 4th overall selection in last June’s draft, it is no surprise that Cale Makar is pushing the top-10 on the list. In fact, prior to the draft, Pronman was higher on Makar that most - putting him in the top-3 of his final mock drafts.
One of the most frequent debates I’ve been having with NHL people in the last year is about players like Makar who are incredibly dynamic with their feet and skill but have questions defensively. The argument is trying to figure out whether they’ll become P.K. Subban or Ryan Murphy. My stance is somewhere in the middle. You should incorporate the risk, it’s greater for defenders with that question than forwards, but you don’t want to overblow it, because if that player becomes a Subban or Erik Karlsson, that’s a franchise changer. Makar had those dynamic elements in bunches. His skating is explosive and elusive. He has great hands. He moves the puck very well, too. I don’t think he’s a horrible defender and have seen him be OK on the PK in college, but it’s not a strength.
Makar has shown just how dynamic he can be with the puck, now he just needs to work on rounding out his game enough to become a top pairing defender in the NHL. As he continues to grow, it’s very likely that we could see Makar move into the top-5 on this list a year from now - that is, if he’s not already in the NHL.
A little lower down on the list is Conor Timmins. The first selection in the second round, Timmins is a guy that has the talent to have been a first-round pick. He has been one of the best defensemen in the OHL over the past two seasons and brings an all-around game that can translate well into a steady all-situations bottom-4 defender.
Timmins doesn't have the same elite potential as Makar does, but he is further along in his development and could be quicker to make an impact in the NHL.
Timmins has grown on me a lot this season. He’s a very smart two-way defenseman who has been excellent in the OHL and was one of the top defensemen at the world juniors. The questions for me on Timmins is whether he has elite upside due to his rather average speed/skill combo. However, he gets a lot accomplished because of his excellent vision, quick decision-making and overall quality offensive instincts. He gets pucks out of trouble quickly and has enough skill in his game to create space for himself. Timmins drives play forward and can check good forwards. That’s a nice combo.
Seeing Timmins on this list is a great sign. While some of us were very high on him going into last year’s draft, Pronman was not. Despite the fact that Timmins all draft eligible CHL defenders in 5v5 points last season, Pronman had him ranked lower than most and didn’t seem to see the type of all-around potential he possesses. It’s good to see Pronman’s opinion on Timmins as changed with a little more time to watch him play.
It’s only one list, but the Colorado Avalanche now have two 19-year old defensemen among the top-50 NHL prospects. Then, of course, you’ve got 19-year old Sam Girard already excelling in the NHL.
Eight months ago, the blueline was the biggest hole on the team’s depth chart. There wasn’t a whole lot to look forward to. Now, on the back of three teenagers, it looks like it has the potential to grow into one of the best in the league over the next few years.