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Cale Maker shows maturity by deciding to go back to UMass

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Canada v Sweden: Gold Medal Game - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

It has been speculated since his season with the UMass Minutemen ended in early March, but this weekend Cale Makar made it official - he is going back to college for at least one more season.

From the time he was selected 4th overall by the Colorado Avalanche, many assumed that the Brooks Bandits product would be one-and-done in the NCAA. Neither the player nor team had given any indication that this would be the case, but fans of the team had him penciled onto the blueline for opening night of the 2018-19 season.

Now they’ll have to wait another year - at least.

Saturday night, Makar joined Tyler King during the second intermission of an AJHL playoff broadcast and the 19-year old defenseman was very open about his commitment to UMass.

“I am going back for another year at college. I think I’m happy with that plan. I feel that I need another year of development. Hopefully, we’ll see where I’m at after that. I’ll make the jump when I feel ready”

Makar sounds like a player that knows his limitations. In choosing a second season in the NCAA, he is forgoing the huge payday that comes along with an NHL entry-level contract. To me, that speaks volumes about his maturity level. He wants to get better on his own terms.

We all know how talented Makar is. He stood out at times against the best U20 players in the world at the World Juniors, but he is far from an NHL-ready defenseman - and it’s obvious that he knows this.

“I’m very lucky that most of my main assets were able to translate over to the college level fairly easily. I think in terms of the physicality, that’s one thing you can’t be taught in the AJHL.

For me specifically, the summer is going to be a really big time, in terms of improving durability and endurance and then getting better in the weight room as well. I struggled with a lot of consistency this year – spreading my work ethic out in games and practices, that was one big thing, that will be a thing I work on this summer and into next year, but I’m excited to see what I can do with the team.”

Makar needs to get bigger. He had trouble with the physicality in the NCAA this season. If that’s the case, he’s got no hopes of standing up to the physical grind that is an 82 game NHL season.

While we can tell Makar wants to go back to school to help grow on the ice, it’s also very evident that this is a young man that feels a loyalty to the UMass program. Makar was one of 13 freshmen that joined the team this season and the injection of talent lead to the Minutemen being the most improved D1 team in the country. It’s a program that is on the rise, and Makar clearly wants to be a part of it.

“I think it’s very special to be a part of the program right now...

I think the amount of character that each of us has. How much we’ve committed to the culture. The energy we have in the whole program is pretty special.

I’m very excited to see what we can do next year as well. It’s going to be a very special year next year.”

It’s understandable that many Avalanche fans would want to rush Makar to the NHL. This is an exciting young team that has the potential to be very good in the coming years. Makar is going to be a big part of that future. He’s just not ready yet.

The 19-year old is getting a lot of unwarranted criticism from fans and media members that follow the team. That needs to stop. You might not like the decision he’s made, but we should all respect it.

It takes maturity to make an unpopular decision. Makar is doing what is best for him - both personally and professionally. In the end, it’s likely going to end up being the decision that works out best for the Colorado Avalanche as well.

The complete interview can be heard here.