The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey staff. Five writers have ranked players under the age of 25 in the Colorado Avalanche organization as of July 1, 2023. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
Taylor Makar, the younger brother of Cale Makar, was a 7th round pick by the Colorado Avalanche in 2021. He followed the same path his brother forged out east, signing with the University of Massachusetts the same year they won the National Championship. To say expectations of Taylor were high is an understatement—however, the younger Makar was always projected as more of a project than his older brother and the immediate results that never came were not a surprise. Unlike his silky smooth defensive older brother, Makar is a big forward who is still learning how to use his size, and this upcoming season is his most important one yet.
The first question that naturally comes to mind for people who haven’t seen Taylor play is: does he have Cale’s skillset? Well—no one does—and if he was close to Cale’s talent level, he would have been drafted a lot sooner than the 7th round. However, it’s clear that Taylor has benefited from growing up next to a world-class skater.
This is where I should note my clear and demonstrated bias. I went to UMass and watch every hockey game of theirs that I can. Joining the season after UMass officially shifted the Hockey East power center westward took a lot of guts. Having that name under those circumstances while knowing he may not play right away and still following in Cale’s impossibly large shoes shows that he’s got that same chutzpah his brother does. All that said, there are good reasons why I was the only person to rank him higher than 17th (I was perhaps a bit exuberant putting him this high, but he got this far because I think most of the guys 10-20 are largely underwhelming and interchangeable, and if I filled out that section of the rankings 10 times I’d probably give you 10 different answers). Makar still hasn’t scored consistently enough to make himself a top-level prospect, and my fellow writers at MHH had good reason to rank him much lower than me.
In his first year, he was in and out of Greg Carvel’s lineup as was largely expected. The hard-nosed coach who turned one of the worst programs in major college hockey into a national power demanded he use his size more. He had moments—particularly when he was skating in open ice—where it looked like the proverbial light bulb may have come on, but he could never find the back of the net, and he often found himself on the bench as the intensity of the games ramped up.
His sophomore year, more was expected of him in a middle six role. He started on the second line with two other sophomores, and after sweeping defending National Champion University of Denver at home to open the season, everything fell apart for the Minutemen. An avalanche of injuries moved players in and out of the lineup, and a once steady goaltending situation turned the starting position into a game of hot potato. The sophomore line became the only steady presence in the lineup outside of UMass’s two serious NHL defensemen Scott Morrow (Carolina Hurricanes), Ryan Ufko (Nashville Predators) and Hockey East first-team freshman Kenny Connors (Los Angeles Kings).
Why I ranked Makar so high is because he earned Greg Carvel’s trust, and navigated the long route from the doghouse to the top line—plus like all Greg Carvel teams, the player he was in the second half of the season was much better than the one in the first. UMass’s numbers from last year are skewed by the 5th best power play in the country, and they got absolutely rocked at 5-on-5. Makar’s 10 goals look modest on their face, but most if not all came at 5-on-5, and he scored three goals in his last three games of the season while he was playing the best hockey of his career.
The player Makar was for most of the season is about the 17th best prospect in the Avalanche organization. The player he was the last few weeks of the season is higher than that.
When he gets downhill and can shield his defender with his body, he can create a lot of problems for the defense.
Here's a look at Makar going to the net for his eighth of the season with a burst of speed for the go-ahead goal - assists to @mercs754 and @Scott23Morrow— UMass Hockey (@UMassHockey) March 4, 2023
Watch on ESPN+: https://t.co/fVqzcmFZ0M#NewMass X #Flagship pic.twitter.com/j26nuuvPW0
He’s not just a shooter either, he has some good playmaking skills.
His shot is still his most exciting skill after his skating ability, and he has developed a knack for scoring big goals.
Unless he unlocks a full-scale Cale-style skillset, he likely at best a bottom six player if he makes it to the NHL, but his size, speed, shot and his balance on his edges make him a very intriguing prospect. He was a developmental player from the start, has improved every week, and reports from Avalanche developmental camp this summer are that he got faster.
He has been competing with one of the greatest hockey players on the planet since birth, and it’s not unreasonable to expect him to continue getting better. If Makar could develop a more well-rounded defensive game while continuing to hone his strengths, he could eventually step into the kind of bottom six role the Avs have envisioned for Miles Wood. At the NHL level I think his ceiling is probably somewhere around 10-20 goals per year, but the last name alone makes 30 a remote possibility.
This year is where I think we can really judge him as a prospect. He’s made the improvements his coaches have demanded of him as he’s grown into his body (that’s just one inch and 25 pounds smaller than Mikko Rantanen), and now he is going to be trusted with a major role in the top six and likely on the top line. The third year is always key for any college player, but especially one who was slated for a full four-year development from the start. UMass is surely focused on proving they are the team who swept DU last year and not the one that followed it, and if they want to reclaim their spot atop Hockey East, Taylor Makar will have to be a big part of that effort.
2023 Top 25 Under 25
#17 Jeremy Hanzel
#18 Trent Miner
#19 Colby Ambrosio
#22 Chris Romaine
#23 Maros Jedlicka
#24 Andrei Buyalsky
#25: Nikita Ishimnikov