Defenseman Cale Makar, at just 20-years-old, suited up as a member of the Colorado Avalanche for the first time on Monday night, 24 hours after signing his entry-level contract with the team. Makar, who was picked fourth overall by the Avs in the 2017 NHL Draft, had an impressive debut, scoring a goal in Colorado's 6-2 pounding of the Flames.
To truly, fully appreciate Makar's debut, you have to consider the wild week he had leading up to it. The young prospect went from a college standout at UMass Amherst to a key contributing piece on a Stanley Cup playoff roster in about 48 hours, so let's take a look at Makar's journey over the past handful of days.
Friday, April 12: Makar wins the Hobey Baker
Last Friday, Makar took home the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey. This came as a surprise to absolutely no one, as the defenseman was an absolute force in his sophomore season and was the most impactful player at the NCAA ranks. In 41 games for UMass, Makar had 16 goals and 49 points and was a plus-32.
With Makar on the ice, UMass had a stunning plus-59 goal differential with 82 goals for and 23 goals against. He was the most dominant player in college hockey and it wasn't really close.
Saturday, April 13: Makar plays in the NCAA Championship
Not only did Makar have a brilliant individual season, but he also helped lead UMass to their first national title game in program history. It was a case of first-timers versus reigning top dogs, as the Minutemen took on last year's title winners in Minnesota Duluth.
Makar, who captained the Minutemen this season, didn't get the storybook ending he was hoping for, as UMD clinched back-to-back titles with an impressive 3-0 win over UMass. The defenseman was was a minus-one in the contest.
He didn't have to sit with the disappointing runner-up finish for very long. There were rumors that the Avalanche wanted to sign him as quickly as they could following the title game, and those rumors proved to be correct. Immediately after the national championship, Makar was presented with the necessary paperwork that would effectively transition him from a college superstar to a pro.
Sunday, April 14: Makar joins the Avalanche
After signing his entry-level contract, Makar needed to get to Denver as quickly as possible to join the Avalanche, who had just wrapped up a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 2 of their opening round playoff series on Saturday night. Makar's flight from Buffalo, where the NCAA title game took place, to Denver was delayed, so instead of waiting around he drove north to catch a flight out of Toronto.
While this was happening, the Avs were working furiously to handle the travel logistics, which were a bit complicated considering Makar is a Canadian citizen who was in the United States on a student visa. He needed to be cleared to travel across the border and then join the Avalanche.
Ultimately, everything worked out and the defenseman was able to join his new teammates for practice on Sunday morning.
Monday, April 15: Makar suits up, scores his first goal
Colorado wasted no time inserting Makar into the lineup, slotting him on their third pairing for Game 3 against the Flames on Monday night. Makar's parents also successfully made the trip from Buffalo to Denver and they were in the crowd as he took the ice as an NHL player for the first time.
They didn't have to wait long to have something to cheer about, as Makar scored a goal in his very first period as a pro. About 16 minutes into the game, Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon had the puck on a rush and found the trailing Makar, who confidently took it to the slot and slid a shot through the five-hole for a 3-0 Colorado lead.
His parents could not have looked more proud.
Overall, Makar looked really solid and confident in his debut. With his tremendous skating and abilities with the puck, there's no question that he has the skillset to play with the best, but he also has a high hockey IQ.
It's hard to imagine the coming days will be as crazy and hectic as the ones Makar just had, but expecting this kid to slow down anytime soon might be a perilous endeavor.