Cale Makar Wins the Hobey Baker Award

Cale Makar, the sophomore defenseman from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), was named the recipient of the 2019 Hobey Baker Memorial Award as college hockey’s top player on Friday, April 12.

He is the first player from UMass to win the award.

The sophomore alternate captain has had a busy week as he helped lead UMass to its first ever Frozen Four appearance. His team beat the Denver University Pioneers in the semi-final Thursday, April 11. The Minutemen will play in their first ever national championship game Saturday, April 13 against Minnesota-Duluth.

Cale Makar’s Amazing Sophomore Season

Makar earned the honor with a 49-point season over 40 games. He is the top scoring college defenseman, sits third overall in points and is second in the nation with a plus/minus of plus-33. He is a complete player known for his great skating ability, his effective play in all three zones and his offensive prowess even though he’s a blueliner.

Cale Makar UMass
Cale Makar has led UMass to their first ever national championship game. (Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics)

But, the Hobey Baker is about more than just skill on the ice. It’s also about character. Candidates for the award need to meet the following criteria to even be considered:

  • Exhibit strength and character, both on and off the ice
  • Contribute to the integrity of the team
  • Display outstanding skills in all phases of the game
  • Show scholastic achievement and sportsmanship

His college coach Greg Carvel stated he thought Makar was deserving of the award while the voting was still in process.

“He’s a really special kid. I hope he’s rewarded [Friday] at the ceremony, because I think he’s everything that you want out of the Hobey Baker winner.”

UMass Coach Carvel

Makar continued to rack up the honors this season. He was a unanimous selection as Hockey East Player of the Year. Earlier, he had been chosen as Hockey East’s player of the Month for October, and their Player of the Week four times over the course of the season.

Before receiving the Hobey Baker, he was named a First Team All-American (East). Makar was also selected to receive the Bob Monahan Award as New England’s best defenseman and the Leonard Fowle Award for New England Player for the Year.

Makar’s Unique Path

Makar was the Colorado Avalanche’s 2017 first round draft pick, selected fourth overall. He is also the highest-drafted player in UMass history. His college play has garnered attention. ESPN ranked Makar as the top NHL prospect as recently as March 6 of this year.

Cale Makar
Cale Makar (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For all the accolades, Makar is unique as an NHL prospect. The Colorado Avalanche invited him to join them for the 2018-19 season but he elected to return to college — Makar thought he needed another year to develop.

The Avalanche were not the first big offer Makar declined. He received an invitation to play for team Canada in the Olympics in 2018, but he declined that as well. He reportedly wanted to finish the season playing with his college squad. It was a gamble that paid off for him and should also reap benefits for the Avalanche, whenever he joins them.

Cale Makar played for Canada in the World Junior Championships but declined to play in the Olympics. (Photo by: Dr. Jonathan Eto)

He also turned down a plethora of college offers after UMass switched coaches before he enrolled, instead choosing to join the struggling hockey program in 2017. His solid play earned him a place on the Hockey East All-Rookie team his freshman year.  He scored 21 points in 34 games and won a gold medal in the IIHF World Junior Championships as a member of 2018’s team Canada.

A Promising Future

After receiving the Hobey Baker, Makar expressed his desire to win the National Championship and then join the Colorado Avalanche in their playoff run. He made it clear there were no agreements in place yet, since he was still playing.

Cale Makar 2017 NHL Draft
Cale Makar, number four overall pick to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2017 NHL Draft (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

Whether the Avalanche will sign him to an entry level contract after Saturday’s game has been the subject of conjecture. A key issue for the team to consider is whether playing in a handful of NHL postseason games will remove Makar from protection during the Seattle expansion draft.

“Hopefully I’ll be joining the Avalanche,” Makar said after accepting the award Friday night. “You never know.”

It’s worth noting the 20-year-old Makar hails from Calgary. Suiting up in an Avalanche uniform to face the Calgary Flames could be a dream come true. Playing his first NHL game against the Flames may well be the icing on the cake for a prospect who has charted his own course to success. For the Avalanche, it’s just one more promising step towards a bright future for both the Makar and the team.