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Cale Makar eager to work way toward spot with Avalanche

Defenseman, No. 4 pick in 2017 NHL Draft, wants to develop two-way game in college

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche prospect Cale Makar already was beginning to feel comfortable with his surroundings Sunday while flying into what he hopes will be his future NHL home.

"Getting to see the mountains, it kind of looks a little like Calgary," he said, referring to his hometown.

However, the defenseman (5-foot-11, 187 pounds) is willing to wait to play here. Makar, the No. 4 in the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas on Friday, will attend the University of Massachusetts-Amherst as a freshman in the fall.

Video: Makar reacts to being chosen 4th overall

"Whether it's one or two years, it's going to be whether I'm ready or not," the 18-year-old said Monday at Pepsi Center, where the Avalanche introduced five of their seven 2017 draftees. They will be among 22 prospects who are to begin a three-day development camp Tuesday in nearby Centennial, Colorado.

"It's a reality check," Makar said. "You come here and you know that the work is just getting started and the draft is just a step in the process. Nobody's going to care about what you've done before the draft if you don't find success after it. You kind of have to make a name for yourself and then hopefully make it to the NHL."

To increase his chances of doing so, Makar said he wants to develop into more of a two-way player at UMass. He said he patterns his game after those of Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I want to round out my game, but not take away from the offensive side of my game," he said. "There's a few flaws in my defensive zone that I need to work on but nothing major that I think is going to hold me back from playing in the NHL."

The Avalanche have high expectations for Makar, who had 75 points (24 goals, 51 assists) in 54 games this season for Brooks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 13 playoff games and was named postseason MVP after helping Brooks win its second consecutive league championship.

Video: Cale Makar describes his feelings being drafted 4th

Makar had six points (two goals, four assists) in five games to help Brooks win a silver medal in the Royal Bank Cup, Canada's National Junior A championship series. He had 135 points (35 goals, 100 assists) in 111 AJHL regular-season games.

Makar was named Canadian Junior Hockey League MVP and the AJHL MVP and defenseman of the year. He will attend Hockey Canada's camp in Plymouth, Michgan, in July and hopes to make Canada's roster for the 2018 World Junior Championship in Buffalo.

"He plays the game the way the game needs to be played now," said Alan Hepple, the Avalanche director of amateur scouting. "He plays fast, he's skilled, he has the ability to be a game changer. Once he develops, once he finds his main strength, once he matures, the sky's the limit for him. He's the generational player that everybody's looking for now. These guys are hard to find."

Hepple said Makar wasn't "on our radar early," but that soon changed even though the AJHL is considered a lower-level league.

"As the year went on there was more chatter and we kept going back and we kept watching him," Hepple said. "We watched him in international tournaments where he was very good, a standout in his own age group against better competition. He dominated his league, he was the best player in the league."

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