DENVER -- Cale Makar can speed up and down the ice with the greatest of ease, but the Colorado Avalanche prospect is not in as much of a hurry to move to the NHL.
The 19-year-old defenseman believes he needs more time, which is why he's returning to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for his sophomore year.
"I just felt it was in my best interest to go back to school for one more year and hopefully develop a little bit more," said Makar, the No. 4 pick by the Avalanche in the 2017 NHL Draft. "I'm getting to the point where I feel I'm pro ready, but at the end of the day I know that there are still some things in my game, whether it's in the defensive side or off ice physically that I can tweak. Those will be the big things this coming year and hopefully I'll make a decision after that."
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Makar (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) had six points (one goal, five assists) in his first 12 games his freshman year, but finished with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 34 games. He was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and was a Hockey East Third Team All-Star.
"I think in the beginning I had a little bit of growing pains in terms of the league," said Makar, who had 75 points (24 goals, 51 assists) in 54 games the previous season with Brooks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. "It was a lot different than playing in the AJHL. In the NCAA, it's a lot more physical; guys are on you right away. Even on our Olympic size (rink) at UMass, it's a very tight space in the defensive zone as well."
Makar had another opportunity to elevate his game at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he helped Canada win gold with eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven games.
"He took off the second half," Avalanche director of amateur scouting Alan Hepple said. "I think the World Juniors was an eye opener for him, the biggest stage he's been on, and he was good. His skating, his speed … he scored some great goals."
One of 13 freshmen on his college team, Makar helped UMass Amherst to a record of 17-20-2; it was 5-29-2 the previous season.
"I had very high expectations going into my first NCAA season," said Makar, who is taking sports management classes. "I'm very tough on myself. I think I'm my biggest critic. I want to work on my consistency. I struggled with that a little bit last year."
Video: Cale Makar discusses his season at development camp
Makar attended Avalanche development camp in June and enjoyed working with power skating instructor Tracey Dorr.
"I'm kind of a hockey junkie, trying to learn everything that I can," he said. "Having a great power skating coach like her, you get to learn a lot. I'm going to watch some clips and analyze my own skating. Tight turns in the corner, moving the puck up to the blue line, there are a lot of quick things that will help me a lot."
Making the Avalanche for the 2019-20 season is a possibility for Makar, but they won't rush him.
"Cale has always taken his time. He spent an extra year playing in the AJHL, and then obviously it was a big jump for him to go play at UMass Amherst," Hepple said. "He's got to feel comfortable coming out [of college]. These guys come at their own pace."
Video courtesy of Colorado Avalanche