UMass Hockey NHL Prospect Cale Makar Stands Out This Season

There are college hockey stars, and then there is UMass sophomore defenseman Cale Makar. Rink verbiage doesn’t quite do the man justice. “Stud,” “special player,” “sick”—none of these terms captures his essence. Sometimes you have to get to the rink and apply the eye test. Joe Bertagna is not only the commissioner of Hockey East, but a writer, historian and sage of college hockey. His take on Makar might be the most telling. 

“I often observe that women’s hockey is more like the men’s hockey of my era, where there was a visible gap between the best players and the pack,” said Bertagna, who was a star goalie for Harvard in the early 1970s. “At most men’s games I attend, I have to work hard to identify the best players, the special players. Not when I watch UMass. Makar reminds me of the old days when the stars stood out. He is different from the rest.”

If you start with the premise that Makar is in a class by himself, then his accomplishments all fall in line: he’s a defenseman with 30 points in 25 games; he has powered UMass to its startling transformation from Hockey East doormat to dominant front-runner; during his extended Christmas break as a freshman, he returned to Amherst with a World Junior gold medal and All-World status. Now in his second, and by all projections, final season of college hockey, he has figured things out, to the woe of his opponents.

“Last year was a big learning curve for me,” said Makar after Tuesday’s practice. “Just being able to find that consistency throughout the year was a struggle. I think it’s been a lot different this year.” 

That’s a massive understatement, if you ask any of the 3,000 fans who attended the BU-UMass game at Agganis Arena last Friday. Makar was a blur all game long, hounding the puck, setting up goals and stapling unsuspecting Terriers to the boards.



“In a game that had three first-round draft picks for BU, he was the guy who jumped off the page,” said UMass coach Greg Carvel. “He is an explosive skater, he plays with an edge, he’s so quick and skilled. He absolutely should be the Hobey Baker winner, he’s the most dominant player.” 

Carvel’s bias notwithstanding, it’s a foregone conclusion that Makar will be a Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist, but unless UMass is in the Frozen Four, he’ll have already bolted college for the next level, playing for the Colorado Avalanche, who drafted him fourth overall in 2017.  “He’s too good,” said Carvel with resignation. “He needs to move on, that’s the way it should be.”

Trying to get Makar to project about anything other than his next game, however, is an exercise in futility. “Right now, we’re focused on the day-to-day process,” said Makar. “I give a lot of credit to the team this year, the fact that we’ve been rolling and everybody’s been able to stay focused every day, not looking too far ahead into the future.”

So, it’s up to the pundits to project Makar’s future, that he will join his mates at Boston Garden for the Hockey East Championships next month, and we’ll get to watch him dominate the college game in an NHL palace. We will see him in an NCAA regional, probably New Hampshire or Providence, trying to reach hockey’s Holy Grail via the Frozen Four. He will then shift jerseys to a slightly darker shade of maroon, and jump into an NHL pennant race with the Avalanche.

And then this comet will be gone. The kid from western Canada will have left a star trail reminiscent of another Hockey East immortal, Paul Kariya: World Juniors, NCAAs, Hobey Baker. The college he feels so indebted to for assisting in his development—UMass—has become a national power in his wake.

UMass hockey SID Jillian Jakuba sees Makar nearly every day. She helped produce a video this fall promoting the Minutemen, and got to see Cale in a brand-new role. He did not disappoint. 

“This video shoot really led me to believe that there’s nothing Cale can’t do… I ask him to act, and he does it perfectly, in one take!”



Author Tim Rappleye just released his latest book: Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review (Mission Point Press, 2018). He can be reached @TeeRaps.

Gustav Nyquist Headlines Juicy List Of Hockey East Alums In Trade Rumors

Hockey East’s history of NHL development has been impressive and as the NHL trade deadline of Feb. 25 nears, a handful of conference alumni are in the rumor mill.

WCHA RinkRap: Bowling Green & Lake Superior State Compose A Tale Of 2 Teams

Of all the pennant races in Division I college hockey, the battle for second place in the WCHA is arguably the most compelling. Lake Superior and Bowling Green each have 47 points with two weekends to play, but they are on entirely different tracks since New Year’s. The Lakers are 11-2-1 in that stretch, winning the Great Lakes Invitational, climbing up both the standings and the PairWise rankings within smelling distance of an NCAA bid. They may be on the outside looking in, but their knocks on the door are getting louder.

UMass Launches PR Campaign For Hobey Hopeful Cale Makar

In recent years the Hobey Baker Award has taken voting to the masses, engaging college hockey fans by allowing them to vote in the first of three voting tiers, the one that whittles approximately 80 candidates down to 10 finalists. The reality is that the fan input is merely a tiny fraction of the weight of the college coaches, whose votes are the primary driver in the Hobey Award’s list of 10. But it’s fun, it keeps the debate lively and the process has prompted the energetic UMass marketing department to come up with a pin reminiscent of the “I Like Ike” political pin of yesteryear.

Providence's Jacob Bryson Among 2019's Elite Defensemen

This college hockey season has emerged as the “Year of the Defenseman.” Prompted by sports information directors in the crowded Northeast Corridor, puck scribes are plugging three high-scoring defensemen for the Hobey Baker Award—Adam Fox (Harvard), Cale Makar (UMass) and Chase Priskie (Quinnipiac), who could all conceivably be wedged into the three Hobey Hat Trick finalist slots. This is without even taking a peek west of the Appalachians, where Bobby Nardella (Notre Dame) and K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin) lead their respective teams in scoring. 

Boston University's Dante Fabbro Eyeing The NHL, But Where?

Dante Fabbro continues to grow his game for Boston University but as the Terriers’ season slips away, so too may Fabbro.

Hockey East's Top 3 Hobey Baker Candidates: Makar, Davies, & Bryson

Last April, Northeastern forward Adam Gaudette became Hockey East's 10th Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner and fourth in the past 10 seasons.

Northern Michigan Aims For A Second-Half Push In WCHA

The Northern Michigan Wildcats have had a turbulent season spent battling through roster turnover, and they’ll look to gain momentum as the WCHA Tournament nears.

Minnesota State Mavs Go Trophy Hunting

Hockey is a primal game, played by clans carrying clubs and wearing blades. Championship teams live to conquer, preferably on foreign ice, celebrating with spoils provided by their vanquished hosts. That is exactly what the pride of the WCHA—Minnesota State—did this past weekend, when it crashed Michigan Tech’s annual Winter Carnival, exiting with the hallowed MacInnes Cup after claiming five of six points in the standings. Like the ancient Roman juggernaut, they came, they saw, they conquered.  

Goalie Matchup A Highlight Of Beanpot Title Game

BOSTON — It doesn’t seem too far-fetched to think that the goaltender matchup from Monday night’s all-Hockey East title game at the 67th annual Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden might be the same one you’ll see a few years down the road in the National Hockey League.

Beanpot Consolation Loss The Latest Disappointment For BU

BOSTON — Not even a few minutes into Monday night’s consolation game at the 67th annual Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden, and it was evident that one team clearly understood what was on the line.