Avalanche's wunderkind Cale Makar scores beauty in first NHL game
It’s been a wild few days for Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche.
On Thursday afternoon, the 20-year-old sophomore — playing for the University of Massachusetts Amherst at the time — was named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey.
On Saturday, his team fell 3-0 to Minnesota Duluth in the national title game, the finale of the NCAA Frozen Four tournament, at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo.
On Sunday, he signed a three-year entry level contract with the Avalanche, the team that drafted him fourth overall in the 2017 draft.
Then, on Monday night, the native of Calgary, Alberta scored his first NHL goal against the Flames late in the first period of Game 3 of Colorado’s first round matchup at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
CALE MAKAR in his FIRST NHL GAME!#CGYvsCOL here: https://t.co/X4e45rkLS4 pic.twitter.com/ju9gGP0f2b
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 16, 2019
And while the tally was pretty, the reaction of his parents in the stands may be even better. Here is the touching moment looped for you to enjoy as many times as you please.
Live look at Cale Makar's parents following his first goal with the @Avalanche #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/RJNk0r8CMD
— Alec Gearty (@gearty83) April 16, 2019
Also, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t inform you of the elite company Makar joined by scoring in his NHL postseason debut.
#GoAvsGO Cale Makar is the first player to make his career NHL debut in the postseason & also score a goal since Lauri Korpikoski (Rangers) on May 4, 2008 vs Penguins
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 16, 2019
Any time your name is mentioned in the same sentence as Lauri Korpikoski, you’ve probably done a good thing.
The goal gave Colorado a 3-0 advantage at the time and stood as the game-winner in their 6-2 victory.
By the looks of it, Makar’s addition to the lineup will have an enormous impact on this series. Plain and simple, the decision to jump into the rush during the first period of his NHL career shows his confidence in his ability.
It’s plays like that which help explain how he racked up 16 goals and 49 points in 41 games of college hockey this season. Furthermore, his strong play during his debut will hopefully quiet the many individuals that questioned Colorado’s choice to insert him into the lineup.
With Makar’s first appearance in an NHL contest in the books, things will become a little interesting for the Avalanche ahead of the Seattle expansion draft in June 2021. These playoffs, as well as the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, will make him a third-year player once Seattle makes its selections. As a result, he will likely become one of the three blueliners that the team protects.
If they were to wait until next season to use him, the situation could have been avoided as he would have only been a second-year player once the draft rolled around. Since first-year and second-year players are automatically exempt, one of the Avalanche’s three protected blueliner spots (or eight player spots, if they decide to go that route) wouldn’t need to be used on Makar and the team’s fourth-best defencemen in 2021 wouldn’t be exposed.
That will be — as the kids say — a future Colorado problem, though.
The (very, very) early returns that Makar has provided seem to outweigh the managerial issues to come.
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