Cale Makar was Colorado's first selection (first round, fourth overall) at the 2017 NHL Draft, which was held at United Center in Chicago on June 23-24. Makar spent the last two years in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Brooks Bandits and is set to continue his playing career at the University of Massachusetts Amherst next year.
The Calgary, Alberta, native had 24 goals and 51 assists (75 points) this past season with the Bandits, and the defenseman followed his regular-season performance with 16 more points (five goals, 11 assists) in 13 postseason contests, leading his team to a second-consecutive AJHL championship. He also earned regular-season and playoff MVP honors and was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year.
Makar was the No. 1-ranked North American defenseman in Central Scouting's final rankings and became the highest player drafted from the AJHL. He talked with ColoradoAvalanche.com about the draft, the team's development camp and getting ready to play college hockey next season.
What was your draft day experience like?
"It was a day full of nervousness and excitement--those are the two easiest words to describe it. Just sitting in the stands, I was super anxious not knowing what was going to happen. Then, when it finally did happen, there was even more nerves because I didn't want to trip going up to the stage. But it was a cool experience overall."
Did you have any idea who was going to take you in the draft?
"Not really. I met with teams at the combine and stuff, but nobody really stood out and said they were going to pick me for sure. None of it is really in your control. You kind of go into the day not quite sure what is going to happen."
Has it set in that you were the No. 4 pick in the NHL Draft?
"I don't think so. I don't think it has really set in. I tend to keep myself fairly level on that term, but reality has set in now as the work has begun to pile on so I am excited to get going."
What are your thoughts on the Avalanche organization and Colorado so far?
"I really didn't know much about this place before, but I am from Calgary and we have mountains up there. Honestly, the city is pretty similar to Calgary. It's a great downtown area with a great arena out there and a pretty good setup for the players as well. So, first impressions are really good."
Why did you decide to play in the AJHL instead of choosing the major-junior route?
"At the time I was drafted to the WHL, I kind of just wanted to wait it out in terms of the NCAA path. I found Brooks because my cousin was playing there at the time, and the coaches came out to watch me and it just started from there. I knew it was a winning organization, and I knew I wanted to be with them because I knew it would be fun and it just grew from there."
What went into your decision to commit to UMass, and what are you looking forward to the most upon your arrival this fall?
"Part of my decision to go there was that they were one of the first colleges to approach me. From there, I just kind of kept in contact with them. They had very personable coaches at the time. I really liked the campus and the opportunity to be in the Hockey East, a competitive conference. Even with the coaching change there, I wanted to stay loyal and see what happened behind the scenes. I knew they would get somebody good with the new coaches they brought in, Greg Carvel, Ben Barr and Jared DeMichiel. I am really happy that I stayed there because I think they made a great decision with Carvel, who coached Erik Karlsson in Ottawa. I just couldn't be more excited to go there to be honest. They're bringing in I think 11 freshmen this year, and it's going to be an exciting time for the program. I always like a challenge in terms of playing teams, and hopefully we will be the underdogs and it will be a fun time there."
What is your style of play and how can it impact a game?
"I would say I'm an offensive defenseman. I'm a guy that doesn't like to shy away from jumping in the rush, but I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates this year. They were able to feed me the puck when I wanted it and put it in when I fed it to them. I credit them for a lot of it, but I describe my play as offensive and a very mobile guy when I jump in the zone. I like to jump in the middle whether that's D downs or D middles."
Who do you try to model your game after?
"I would say a little bit of a mix between Erik Karlsson and Shayne Gostisbehere. I watched quite a bit of Gostisbehere coming out of college and noticed the deceptiveness from his game right away. I think that is one factor I have always had to my game. In terms of Erik Karlsson, we have very similar tendencies in the ways we break pucks out, join the rush and especially off the line."
What is your favorite hockey memory to date?
"Probably winning gold in 2015 at the World Junior A Challenge. Tyson Jost was the captain there, and it was just a fun experience. It was my first experience with Team Canada, with a Canadian culture. It was a great time, and we had a great team and had a good run."
What is your favorite TV show?
"The Office. It's a very awkward and dry humor, and I have a fairly good sense of humor so I like that stuff."
Do you have any pregame rituals or superstations? If so, what are they?
"I don't really have any superstitions. I'm not a superstations guy, and I don't have many rituals. I'll do a few stretches, but nothing that has to be done at the exact same time, every time."
If you had a time machine, would you go back in time or to the future?
"Back in time for sure. I would probably go to the 1980s or some time around then. I think it would be a cool time because I am a big fan of that kind of music, but it would be really cool to see that culture."
What is your favorite oldies band?
"That's tough. I'm going to have to go with either The Beatles or The Police."