Avalanche Defenseman Cale Makar Wins Conn Smythe Trophy

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Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar has become the 12th defenseman in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Handed out annually to the most valuable player for his team in the playoffs, Makar blew the doors off in the 2021-22 playoffs scoring eight goals and 29 points. His tantalizing playoffs where he further ascended into stardom by his ability to produce on both ends of the ice.

Offensively, Makar’s point total was the fourth most in NHL history trailing Al MacInnis (31 points, 1988-89), Brian Leetch (34 points, 1993-94), and Paul Coffey (37 points, 1984-85).

It was, start to finish, an all-time great season for the 23-year-old. Makar has now become the third player in NHL history to win not only the Conn Smythe Trophy, but the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in the same season. Boston Bruins’ legend Bobby Orr was the first to do so and is the only player to win both trophies twice or more in his career. The first came in 1970, and the second two years later in 1972. The second, and most recent defenseman prior to Makar to hit the feat was Nicklas Lidstrom who, in 2002, won both with the Detroit Red Wings.

Makar narrowly edged out Roman Josi for the Norris this year with 1,631 points to the latter’s 1,606, while Victor Hedman came in third.

Makar took an unusual route to NHL dominance. After growing up playing minor hockey in Calgary, Makar played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, helping the Brooks Bandits win two championships before taking his game to the college ranks where he started for the University of Massachusetts. He helped the Minutemen win a Hockey East title in 2018-19 – a year that also saw him win the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player. With his Conn Smythe win tonight, he became the second player to win that award as well as the Hobey Baker, joining another UMass alumnus, Jonathan Quick.

Makar’s rise to NHL dominance has been swift. His first NHL action came in the 2018-19 playoffs where he broke onto the scene scoring one goal and six points in 10 games. In the 178 regular-season games he’s played over the last three years since, Makar has racked up a staggering 48 goals and 180 points — the fourth most amongst NHL defensemen. Only Victor Hedman (185 points), John Carlson (190) and Roman Josi (194) have scored more.

This season, however, is where Makar’s game hit another level. In 77 games he put up 28 goals and 86 points. His tallies were the most by a defenseman since Brent Burns scored 29 in 2016-17.

But it wasn’t just his offensive game that flourished. Makar’s game in his defensive zone rose to another level, too. His elite speed and edge work allows him to make quick jumps on pucks, and that was shown in these playoffs against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

While McDavid still scored four goals and seven points, Makar broke up multiple zone entries where the former broke into the zone with his elite speed. Well, Makar was right there to match it.

It’s things like this that have made Makar a dominant player at every level he’s played dating right back to his time in the Alberta Junior Hockey League where he played with the Brooks Bandits. All along, he’s looked the same: elite speed, elite skill, elite thinking.

And those are the skills that will be keeping his name in the NHL limelight for years to come.

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