The Colorado Avalanche had a 42-20-8 record in seventy-one games played before the stoppage, which was good for ninety-two points and the second position in the Central Division. They only trail the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues by two points for the Division lead and have a game in hand on them as well.
A major factor to Colorado’s success this season was the play of rookie defenseman and 2017 fourth overall pick Cale Makar. Makar finished second on the Avalanche in scoring with fifty points, trailing only superstar Nathan MacKinnon’s whopping ninety-three points in thirty-five games. Makar even finished with a positive penalty taken/drawn ratio (6:8), which is impressive for any defenseman yet alone a rookie one. It’s even more impressive given the fact that Makar played 21+ minutes a game for fifty-seven games and was +12 in that stretch. Makar even had a solid giveaway/takeaway ratio as well with a 40:34, which was among the better ratios of the Avalanche’s defense group. Lastly, Makar finished with a +2.44 AB score, which was 7th on the team behind Valeri Nichushkin (+7), Matt Calvert (+4.74), Tyson Jost (+4.46), Ryan Graves (+4.16), and J.T. Compher (+3.28).
The impressive play of Makar has garnered lots of league-wide attention, including a potential Calder Trophy nomination. The main threat to Makar when it comes to winning this award is fellow rookie defenseman, Quinn Hughes. When compared to Makar, Hughes has played eleven more games, in which he only outscored Makar by three points (53:50), while averaging around fifty seconds more ice time. Hughes has an 11:15 penalty taken/drawn ratio to Makar’s 6:8, which is also above average for defensemen. Where Makar starts to really pull away from Hughes is in terms of giveaway/takeaway, as Hughes’ ratio is 60:35 (-25 turnover +/-), compared to Makar’s 40:34 ratio (-6 turnover +/-). Makar also exceeds Hughes in +/- and overall AB score, as Makar is +12 compared to Hughes’ -10, and a +2.44 AB score compared to Hughes’ -2.16.
When compared to all rookies, Cale Makar has the 6th best AB score of the overall group, and the 3rd best score out of all rookie defensemen. He trails New York Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren (+3.76), and Pittsburgh’s John Marino (+3.54) in terms of defenseman, and trails Minnesota’s Carson Soucy (+3.47), Dallas’ Denis Gurianov (+3.09), and Toronto’s Ilya Mikheyev (+2.83). Regardless of who wins the Calder Trophy between Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar, it is highly likely that for the first time since Aaron Ekblad won it in 2014-15, a defenseman will win the honor. According to our data, Makar slightly outperforms Hughes, and we would vote for him if we could. More to come.