Kris Baker is once again counting down his list of top prospects available in the NHL Draft for Sabres.com. The first round of the 2017 NHL Draft will take place on June 23 in Chicago.
Team: Brooks (AJHL)
In a draft class starved for superior defensive talent, Cale Makar stands out among the pack with his sheer offensive mentality whenever the puck hits his stick.
The modern NHL game requires defenseman that can skate the puck over two lines, but Makar is one that take it all the way to the net with an aggressive, attacking mindset, be it with a give-and-go route, a wraparound attempt, or circling the zone with a crisp stop and a big shot on goal.
Video: 1-on-1 with Cale Makar
The creative skill set saw Makar post eye-popping offensive numbers this past season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. In 54 regular season games with the Brooks Bandits, Makar led all defenders with 24 goals and 71 points. He followed that up with another 16 points (5+11) in 13 playoff games to earn the Most Valuable Player honor as the Bandits cruised to the league championship.
Great signs of encouragement were provided at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge, where Makar was a dominant offensive force for Team Canada West with four goals and eight points in four games, including a five-point (2+3) outing versus Switzerland, to earn a spot on the Tournament All Star Team.
While enduring the occasional turnover or defensive zone hiccup, the real knock on Makar comes with the level of competition he played against. The AJHL is widely regarded as Canada's second-most competitive Jr. A league, placing roughly 35 NCAA Division-I commitments in the 2016-17 season, compared to the British Columbia Hockey League, which averages over 100 commitments annually.
Still, scouting Makar reveals an exceptional nimble skater with great situational instincts and an excellent set of tools to build from. The Medicine Hat Tigers own Makar's Western Hockey League signing rights, but as of now he is committed to enrolling at the University of Massachusetts this fall to test his skills against stronger, faster competition to help determine his next career steps.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).
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