2016-17 Team: Brooks Bandits (#8)
Date of Birth: October 30, 1998
Place of Birth: Calgary, Alberta
Ht: 5’11” Wt: 179 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2017 first-year eligible
- THW (Pike’s Picks): 6th (final)
- Future Considerations: 7th (final)
- ISS: 10th (May)
- Bob McKenzie: 12th (Mid-season)
- Craig Button: 3rd (final)
- The Hockey News: 5th (final)
A year ago, you could be forgiven if you had never heard of Brooks Bandits defenseman Cale Makar. Last season, Makar was a very good player in one of Canada’s top junior A leagues, the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He was one of the league’s leading defensemen. This season, he’s taken another step and has emerged as an elite player in the AJHL and one of the most talked-about defensemen in the entire 2017 NHL Draft class.
If there are two words to describe Makar’s game, they would be “speed” and “skill.” Makar is a very good skater. He frequently can use his acceleration and maneuverability to go from the right point to the net-front area in short order, which allows him to generate a lot of high-quality scoring chances. His skating ability also affords him the ability to leap into the rush frequently, as he’s mobile enough to rush back to help break up offensive rushes that go the other way. Makar’s skating ability alone makes him a very tantalizing prospect in the 2017 class.
Combine Makar’s excellent skating with his puck-handling skills, though, and he becomes very intriguing. Part of Makar’s leap up the various draft rankings has come from his uptick in production. He’s scoring at a higher rate than he was last season – over a point-per-game pace, as a defenseman – and has followed up a season when he was one of the best offensive players in the AJHL with one where he’s one of the best offensive players in all of Canadian junior A hockey. He is flat-out one of the most dynamic offensive threats in his level of hockey and age group.
— TheAJHL (@TheAJHL) March 6, 2017
The obvious question mark about Makar is regarding the level of opposition in the AJHL. He’s been dominating the league, but the perception of junior A hockey is that is a mixture of players that aren’t quite good enough to play in major junior and players that are avoiding major junior due to having collegiate aspirations. While the AJHL (and junior A in general) aren’t quite up to the level of the major junior leagues, players that are dominant at that level would be at least very good major junior players. Makar’s also not a massive physical specimen – he’s a fairly skinny 5’11” – and it’s not like he’s a big kid bowling over junior A players. He’s a very good hockey player, but the lack of head-to-head meetings between him and other 2017 prospects might hurt his draft standing relative to the rest of the field due to those minor qualms about the quality of junior A.
In the past decade, just eight players have been drafted from a junior A league in the first round. Only two of them – Tyson Jost in 2016 and Kyle Turris in 2007 – have been drafted in the top 10. Makar has turned a lot of heads and generated a lot of buzz with his dominance of the AJHL this past season. He may be the first defenseman selected in the draft, given his surge up most rankings and some injuries to Swedish blueliner Timothy Liljegren. Makar is a tantalizing prospect whose team will be able to be patient with from a developmental stance, as he’s headed to the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) next season. Based on his progress over the past couple of seasons, he’ll likely be worth the wait.
NHL Draft Projection:
On most recent draft rankings or projections, Makar usually is selected somewhere between eighth or 15th overall. He’s been trending upward and could end up being selected in the top 10 picks of this year’s draft.
“Sometimes as a broadcaster – what he does defies explanation. Sometimes he makes so many moves with the puck that he gets himself wide open in front of the net, that you don’t have time to describe what he actually did by the time the puck ends up in the back of the net.” – Tyler King, Brooks Bandits radio broadcaster.
Nice to see Cale Makar getting the recognition he deserves… he is an outstanding player with serious potential. So fun to watch
— Mark Sauer (@MarkSweetnSauer) January 5, 2017
“Cale Makar of the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League is one to watch in the months ahead. The dynamic offensive defenceman (43 points in 32 games) jumped 16 spots from our November rankings to land at 13. His style of play and approach to the game reminds me of Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson. Like Karlsson at the same age, he is still growing, but his skill set is unique. Makar is a player many NHL teams may be hoping slides in the draft, but he’s too good to end up very far down the board.” – Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting
- Strong hockey sense.
- Great situational awareness, in the sense that he knows when to jump into the rush.
- Very effective skater, with great acceleration and mobility.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Likely needs to add some muscle to his frame to defend against NHLers.
- Could probably be a bit more physical in his defensive style (as he tends to rely on positioning and speed).
- His slap shot could use a bit of work to give him another weapon.
Makar projects as a top four defenseman in the NHL level. His skill set makes him almost ideal to be a power play quarterback.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 4.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offense 8/10, Defense 8/10
Makar has represented Canada West at the last two World Junior A Challenges, winning gold in 2015 and serving as team captain in 2016. He also competed at last season’s RBC Cup – Canada’s national junior A championship – and was the tournament’s leading scorer and most valuable player.
So far, he’s been nominated as the AJHL’s top defenseman and league MVP this season.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.