After winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the most outstanding rookie in 2019-20, Cale Makar followed up that campaign with a superb sophomore season.
Makar recorded 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 44 games and was named a finalist for the 2020-21 James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to "the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position."
The Calgary, Alberta, native's average of 1.00 points per game topped all blueliners in 2020-21 and marked the second time in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history a defenseman has produced at such a rate. He joined Steve Duchesne (82 points in 82 contests with Quebec in 1992-93) as the only rear guards in franchise history to average a point per game in a single season.
Makar is the first D-man to accomplish the feat at age 22 or younger since Brian Leetch in 1990-91 (1.10). In fact, he is just the fourth blueliner overall in the last 10 season to average a point per contest (minimum 40 games played), joining Erik Karlsson in 2015-16 (1.00), Brent Burns in 2018-19 (1.01) and John Carlson in 2019-20 (1.09).
Video: COL@MIN: Makar puts on the moves, ties the game
Makar started the season strong, recording his 10th assist of the season in his ninth outing (Jan. 30 at the Minnesota Wild). Only one Avalanche/Nordiques defenseman reached the 10-assist mark in fewer contests: John-Michael Liles (eight) in 2010-11.
He picked up his 50th career regular-season assist on Feb. 24 versus Minnesota, requiring the fifth-fewest games (71) ever by a defenseman to collect 50 helpers. Makar had three assists on March 29 versus the Anaheim Ducks, his third three-helper performance of the year and fifth of his career. He required the fewest games (79) by a defenseman in NHL history to notch five outings with three-plus assists.
Video: ANA@COL: Makar sets up Nichushkin to extend lead
In April, Makar was second among defenders in the league with 15 points (three goals, 12 assists), the most-ever by a Colorado/Quebec blueliner during the month of April. He recorded his fourth three-point performance of the year and seventh in his career on April 24 at the St. Louis Blues and logged a career-high 28:57 of ice time on April 30 versus the San Jose Sharks.
Makar appeared in his 100th NHL game on May 12 versus the Los Angeles Kings, and his 93 career points at the time were the sixth-most all-time by a defenseman through the first 100 regular-season contests.
In the playoffs, he led all Colorado defensemen with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and his eight helpers tied for the second-most among all skaters on the team. He had a postseason career-high four points (one goal, three assists) in Game 1 of Round 2 against the Vegas Golden Knights on May 30. It was the first four-point effort by an Avalanche defenseman in the playoffs since Rob Blake in 2001.
Video: VGK@COL, Gm1: Makar, Landeskog connect to double lead
Makar's four-point night gave him 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 30 career playoff games. Only five defensemen recorded more through 30 contests: Brian Leetch (36), Bobby Orr (36), Denis Potvin (33), Al MacInnis (31) and Sergei Zubov (29). Paul Reinhart also had 28.
In Makar's postseason career, he has 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in 35 outings and his 0.89 points-per-game average is the seventh-highest by a defenseman in playoff history.
Overall, he finished the regular season tied for 10th among all skaters in power-play points (22) and ranked eighth in power-play assists (18). He also became the first blueliner in franchise history to record 40-plus points in each of his first two NHL seasons.
On the Avalanche, Makar was second in average ice time (24:19), fourth in plus/minus rating (plus-17) and hits (49) and was first in average power-play time-on-ice (4:11). Additionally, he was trusted on the penalty kill, averaging 0:55 of shorthanded time on ice per game this past season.
With still only two regular seasons under his belt, Makar has established himself as one of the top defensemen in the league.