Cale Makar is a defenceman who has his seen his stock gradually raise as the season went on. Now he could be the first defenceman selected at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Starting the season as a possible first round pick, Makar has moved himself firmly into top 10 territory.
Playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Makar has been an absolute force for the Brooks Bandits leading them all the way to the RBC Final. He is a dynamic skater who creates offence whenever he is on the ice. He has the ability to quickly transition through the defensive and neutral zones using his fantastic edge work and power to adjust his lanes without sacrificing that speed.
The Calgary native has all the makings of a powerplay quarterback, he distributes the puck extremely well but also has a knack for creating lanes for his own shot. Regularly faking and quickly adjusting his lane to create space or walking the line to draw defenders with him.
The Bandits played a puck possession type of game and that fed right into Makar's skill set. It was all about rushing and carrying the puck into the offensive zone, which is the young defenders' calling card.
Video: Cale Makar - Prospect Profile
On the defensive side of the puck, Makar uses his skating skills to close out gaps and uses his active stick to disrupt his opponents' lanes. If he is able to catch them flat footed, he takes the puck and just goes, leaving everyone behind to go the other way.
Those are all the great parts about the young rear-guards game and something worth noting as there is a reason why Makar has risen up the draft boards over the course of the season. It started early in the year and started to gain steam when he represented Canada West at World Junior A Challenge in December. He led all defencemen in scoring with 8 points in 4 games, which was ranked third in the tournament. Scouts took notice and suddenly Makar was a topic of discussion as a riser in the draft class.
He returned to Bandits and went on a tear, ending the season with 75 points in 54 games.
Makar followed that up with 16 points in 13 AJHL playoff games en route to winning the championship and a berth in the RBC Cup. He capped off the season with another 7 points in 5 games, losing in overtime to the Cobourg Cougars in the RBC finals.
Makar was ranked 10th amongst North American skaters in the Midterm rankings and then moved up to 9th to end the year.
The Calgary native had an extremely productive season and has all the makings of a powerplay quarterback but there is some concern that he was taking advantage of the lower level AJHL. There were quite a few times where Makar would take advantage of lesser skilled players that allowed him to make a play that just can't translate to the next level or professional hockey.
This isn't to take away from the talent that Makar possesses as that was readily on display throughout the year. But in order to have a full and complete picture, having Makar play against stiffer competition at some point this past season. He was unable to compete in the U18 tournament due to his age, so that vetting process was never able to present itself.
The 5-foot-11 and 180-pound Makar is committed to the University of UMass Amherst next season, so he will quickly face an uptick in opposition talent. Going to the NCAA was a reason why Makar remained in the AJHL instead of heading to the Canadian Hockey League. It allowed him to keep his options open going forward. He will use the longer development time in collegiate hockey to round out his game, work on his off ice training and take that next step forward.
With any of these important draft day decisions, due diligence is needed to ensure that you walk away with the best player available. If the Canucks are looking for a power-play quarterback with the 5th overall selection, Makar could very well be that player but for the reasons mentioned above it comes with some risk.
That risk shouldn't cloud how good of a player Makar is. He plays the game the way that the NHL is trending and will likely make an impact in the league very soon.