A hockey skate blade is millimeters wide. Some nights, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar looks to be using every last bit. He can hit wild angles, sending defenders spilling to the ice.
“I don’t know how you can get quicker, but he’s definitely going to get stronger as he gets older,” general manager Joe Sakic said.
He’s 22, and Sakic sees more possibilities.
“I think he’s got another step,” Sakic said. “He’s going to be relied upon. He’s probably going to have to eat more minutes.
“He’s already one of the best players in the game in the defensive position. But he’s so young, and he’s only going to get stronger.”
Makar scored in the first period of his first NHL game, which came during the playoffs. He won the college hockey's Hobey Baker Award after his sophomore year at UMass and the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie a year later. He was a finalist for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenseman, as a sophomore. He finished second in voting.
It's a tight resume save for Stanley Cup champion.
“I’m never really satisfied, and those individual things aren’t really things I focus on either,” Makar said.
Makar is already a minutes-eater and top-unit power play point man. He has 94 points through 101 regular-season games, the sixth-highest total by a defenseman in NHL history in that span. He averaged 24:19 per game in the last regular season, second among Avalanche skaters behind defensive partner Devon Toews. Toews is set to miss the start of the season as he recovers from surgery.
Makar's not a penalty kill specialist. He sounded willing to throw it on the pile, if needed.
“Obviously I want to develop into a role where I can be trusted in every scenario,” Makar said. “Especially in this first part of the season here, it’s going to be important for everyone in the back end to step up just because of Devon being out for the next bit here.”
Makar signed a six-year contract extension in July worth $54 million that runs through the 2026-27 season. The first training camp since that payday wasn’t ideal. He came out for the first day of camp in a non-contact jersey and didn’t appear in a preseason game.
Coach Jared Bednar and Makar himself called what he had over the summer a “procedure.” Bednar said he tweaked something before camp. Wednesday’s opener is set to be Makar’s first game action, where he gets a sense of the pace again.
“At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for yourself,” Makar said. “In my case here, it was just precautionary, basically. Just making sure I’ll be ready for opening night.”
Then it’s on to a bigger role and improving on prior performances, whatever that means.
“Feeling good, ready to go,” Makar said. “Excited to get the first one under the belt, and I know the team’s excited too.”