U.S. Markets closed

In Cale Makar, did Avalanche get best player in 2017 NHL Draft?

CHICAGO – Cale Makar is humble.

He’s an explosive offensive force, to the tune of 75 points in 54 games last season with the Brooks Bandits of Canadian Jr. A. He calls his game a mix of Erik Karlsson and Shayne Gostisbehere – not exactly a bad pair of role models, if lofty comparisons.

There are some scouts that believe the defenseman could end up being the best player in the 2017 NHL Draft, despite having gone fourth overall to the Colorado Avalanche.

“It’s just a prediction, I guess,” he said. “The way I see this draft, it doesn’t matter where you get picked. They’re going to look at what you do after the draft. They don’t care what you did before. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

Then there was that ESPN.com story. Oh man, that story. While the rest of the hockey world was waiting to see if centers Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier were going to go first overall, insider Corey Pronman had the New Jersey Devils taking Makar at No. 1.

“In the past few weeks, it has been indicated to me from several NHL sources that the Devils are leaning toward selecting Makar first overall. Moreover, GM Ray Shero has been following Makar around to get a closer look during the final weeks of his season,” he wrote.

Did anyone send that article to Makar?

“Quite a few. I’m not a guy who goes out and tries to find that stuff, but all my buddies told me about it,” he said.

He didn’t go No. 1, but there’s no question that the Avalanche got an extraordinary talent. And, asking around at the draft, an extraordinary person off the ice.

Cale Makar is loyal.

In 2015, he committed to UMass, bringing his talents to a struggling NCAA program. “At the time, I didn’t have those big, big options, but I had options from other schools. It was just a feeling that I had. The personal touch of UMass. I went to the campus and I really liked it there. And you know what you’re going to get there. With some of the bigger schools, you kind of get suck in the lineup. With UMass, my goal is to be a No. 1 defenseman there,” he said.

Except something fairly significant changed for him in 2016: UMass fired coach John Micheletto, the guy who recruited him to the school.

Yet Makar remained committed to being a Minuteman. He made his choice, He was sticking with it.

“Yeah, 100 percent. That’s my plan for next year, and I couldn’t be more excited to do that,” he said. “I think they brought in the new coaches with [Greg] Carvel, [Jared] DeMichiel and [Ben] Barr there, and they’re going to be exceptional. I think we’re bringing in pretty much 11 new freshmen, and it’s going to be a whole new culture there, and I’m just excited for the challenge and to get started with something new.”

Carvel, in particular, was a lure. He was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators, coaching defensemen the likes of Zdeno Chara … and Erik Karlsson. Makar’s ready to learn from him, and ready to be patient about it.

“Yeah, it’s going to obviously depend on how I develop. My intention is to play in the NHL when I’m ready, and whenever I feel I’m ready and whenever the organization feels I’m ready. Hopefully I can make that jump,” he said.

Cale Makar is honored.

While he didn’t end up going first overall, he was still a lofty draft pick. And thanks to the advice of some friends, he remembered to cherish the moment.

“I was told by guys like Tyson Jost and Jake Bean and others to just take it all in,” he said. “That you’re not going to get a chance to experience this ever again.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.