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Makar joins Avalanche for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Defenseman, Hobey Baker Award winner, signs three-year, entry-level contract

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

DENVER -- Cale Makar will join the Colorado Avalanche for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and could play in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round against the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on Monday (10 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVAS2, ALT). The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.

The 20-year-old defenseman from the University of Massachusetts signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Avalanche on Sunday. Financial terms were not released. 

"He could be a possibility for us (Monday)," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Sunday after arriving from Calgary following Colorado's 3-2 overtime win Saturday. "I think he's a dynamic player, obviously an elite skater, physically involved in every game that I watched, dynamic in the way he can help you produce offense. He's got a great shot, great blue line movement, he's active in the offensive zone. Some of the things that made us a good team yesterday in Calgary, I think he can just add to that."

Chosen by the Avalanche with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Makar played two seasons at UMass and helped it reach the 2019 NCAA national championship game, won 3-0 by the University of Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday. The Calgary native won the 2019 Hobey Baker Award, given to the top men's hockey player in the NCAA, after leading all defensemen with 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 41 games. 

Video: UMass star Cale Makar on winning Hobey Baker Award

"It is definitely a big step up from the college game, especially when you're jumping in mid-series in a heated playoff round against such a good opponent like Calgary is," Bednar said. "It's my job to make sure I'm putting him in a position to succeed, and I think he's an elite talent and a real special player. I have hopes that he can come in and help us in this series.

"If I said there wasn't any concern, I'd probably be lying because it'll be another level that he's never played at before, but he does have a lot of international experience. He's played big games, he played a major role for their team going all the way to the national championship game. I watched that game yesterday while we were preparing, and he did a great job against a real tough opponent. It was a hard-fought game, so it's just another big game that he would be coming into. I just want to make sure he's rested, prepared, focused on what we're doing here now, and then we'll make a decision on when we get him in the lineup."  

Makar could be especially helpful on power plays; the Avalanche have failed to score on all eight of their power plays in the series.

"Cale obviously had a tremendous season, winning the Hobey Baker and getting his team to the Frozen Four," Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. "He is a game-changing type of player who made a lasting impact on the UMass hockey program. We are excited to have him join our team."

Makar helped UMass to its first Frozen Four and set school records in wins (31) and conference wins (16) this season. The highest-drafted defenseman in Avalanche history also had eight points (three goals, five assists) to help Canada win the gold medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Bednar said defenseman Samuel Girard was being evaluated for an undisclosed injury he sustained on a hit by Flames forward Sam Bennett in overtime but is possible for Monday.

"We'll know later in the day, see how he feels," Bednar said. "He's feeling pretty good, actually."

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