Cale Makar recently witnessed a banner whose name was lifted onto the rafters above the UMass hockey home ice, where the Colorado Avalanche freshman became a college legend.
Makar’s former teammates, especially members of his 2017 signing class, were proud to welcome him to a pregame ceremony in December in honor of the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner.
Though it looked like Makar, who led the Minutemen to an appearance in an NCAA championship game last season, wasn’t all that intrigued by the attention.
“I’m not sure whether he liked it or not,” said UMass up-and-coming striker Mitchell Chaffee on Friday in the Magness Arena, where the visiting Minutemen fell 4-2 to DU. “He’s still very humble. He was one of the top rated kids in college hockey, but he was down to earth. “
Same old Cale.
“His return was just an extension of who he was when he was here,” said UMass coach Carvel. “He was a team first guy in every way and is very attached to this group. His class, the kids who are now juniors, flipped that program as a group. He is very proud of that. “
The Avs are kicking off the second half of the NHL season. Oh, so grateful for the healthy return of Makar, who missed eight games with a shoulder injury. Colorado finished second among the Western Conference teams in Saturday’s game against New Jersey Devil with 52 points. Despite his injury-related absence, Makar is in second place among the NHL newbies for assists (22) and third place for goals scored (nine).
His instant success comes as no surprise to teammates and coaches at UMass.
“He was the best player in college hockey last year,” said Chaffee. “He entered the NHL, took every little moment he had and ran with it.”
They also believe Makar didn’t scratch the surface of his potential.
“As good a season as he was offensive, I think he’s got some mounting pain without the puck,” said Carvel. “The special thing about him as a player is that he will adapt, keep getting better and still be 21 years old. It’s hard to be a defender in the NHL that young. You can see that it takes that stamina and physical maturity for him to become a better two-way player.
“But he’s pretty elitist offensively. The goal and support we saw (against the blues) was pretty impressive for a young man like him. “