Colorado Avalanche’s Top Prospects Were Team Canada’s Top Players

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 5: Team Canada poses after beating Sweden in the Gold medal game of the IIHF World Junior Championship at KeyBank Center on January 5, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. Canada beat Sweden 3-1. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 5: Team Canada poses after beating Sweden in the Gold medal game of the IIHF World Junior Championship at KeyBank Center on January 5, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. Canada beat Sweden 3-1. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /
BUFFALO, NY – JANUARY 4: Drake Batherson
BUFFALO, NY – JANUARY 4: Drake Batherson /

Colorado Avalanche 2017 draftees Cale Makar and Conor Timmins were Canada’s best players at the World Junior Championship.

The 2018 World Junior Championship couldn’t have been much better for the Colorado Avalanche. When Cale Makar and Conor Timmins received their watches after Canada’s semi-final win over the Czech Republic, it made official what was already clear. The two young defencemen – along with Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson – were Team Canada’s best players in the tournament. Makar was the championship team’s most potent offensive weapon, while Timmins was its most stalwart defender.

Both came up huge at key points in the tournament, never more so than Timmins gold medal winning assist with less than 2 minutes left in the 3rd period against Sweden.

It didn’t start out that way, with Makar especially struggling to find ice time. No Canadian dman played fewer total minutes, even those who missed a game. And yet, Makar not only led all tournament defenders in points, he was also near the top of Canada’s scoring leaders. His performance earned him a place on the tournament All-Star team, the lone Canadian on the roster.

Timmins, on the other hand, quickly emerged as arguably the best defensive defenceman in the tournament. He was always Head Coach Dominique Ducharme’s first choice on the penalty kill, and was frequently tasked with shutting down the other team’s top players. He was fantastic throughout, and certainly turned a lot of heads.

If ever there was a reason to get excited for the Avalanche blueline, it’s now. The team’s top prospects were the top players on the top team in the top tournament for players their age.


Cale Makar did what he was drafted to do: score. He finished the tournament with 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points. Coming into this year, the question was whether Makar would be able to play against tougher competition than he was used to in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Consider that question answered.

There’s a strong case for Makar being Canada’s best offensive player. He played fewer minutes than Canada’s highest scoring forwards and obviously defencemen get fewer points. Despite these drawbacks, he still he hung with them in terms of production. He was also instrumental in running Canada’s lethal powerplay. Canadian defencemen scored 4 goals in the entire tournament; Makar scored 3 of them.

In the top tournament for kids his age, with the top players available, Makar was one of the best. He outshone Miro Heiskanen, the guy taken just ahead of him, 2016 5th overall pick Olli Juolevi and a handful of older or more experienced defenders.

Aside from Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun and Samuel Girard, all the best defencemen eligible for the tournament were present. And Makar was one of the best of the bunch. He wasn’t buried by the tougher competition, and in fact elevated his game as the games got bigger.

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It’s curious that Canada’s coaching staff considered their 7th defenceman one of their three top players for the tournament. The TSN commentators made a similar observation more than once, wondering why Makar wasn’t getting more ice time. While his offensive contributions drew praise, his defensive game was described by Ray Ferrarro as being “more than adequate.”

All in all, Makar had a fantastic showing, and was perhaps Canada’s top offensive threat. And he was perfectly balanced by the Colorado Avalanche’s other top prospect.


Conor Timmins never should have fallen to the second round. He’s making that clear in the OHL, and he put an exclamation point on it in the World Junior Championship. His play in the defensive zone was nearly perfect throughout the tournament, winning battles and making excellent plays to break the forecheck and get the breakout started with a crisp pass on the tape.

Prior to the quarterfinals, TSN analyst Jeff O’Neill called Timmins Canada’s best defender and said that he made a great play every time he was on the ice. He led the team in total shifts and minutes and more than earned the player of the tournament accolades from his coaches.

Timmins led the tournament with a +15 and was on the ice for only 1 even strength goal against in 7 games. Even more impressive, he contributed offensively, being the only Canadian defender aside from Makar to score a goal. He also added 4 assists, and could easily have picked up another couple goals.

Never was he better than when his team needed him most:

Conor Timmins was a force at both ends of the ice, but especially in his own zone. In the rare occasions he had to play there, he was excellent and quickly snuffed out any opposition chances. He and Makar combined to be Canada’s best players, something that was most visible in the quarterfinals against Switzerland.

Vision of the Future?

Canada held Victor Mete out of the lineup in the game against the Swiss, which set up a dream pairing for the Colorado Avalanche and their fans. Their top two picks from the most recent draft lined up side by side. And they wasted no time taking the game over.

Less than a minute in, Makar capitalized on a turnover and sent Canada up the ice to take an early 1-0 lead. Not long after, he and Timmins conspired to do this:

And Makar was instrumental in making the game 3-0 with these great hustle plays to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

By then the rout was well underway, but the Avalanche’s top prospects weren’t done. They were on the ice for the team’s first 6 goals, punctuated by Timmins’ first of the tournament.

Both guys finished with a goal and an assist, Timmins put up an astounding +6. The only blemish was a bad pinch by Makar on the powerplay that led to a shorthanded goal against when the game was out of reach. He still finished +4 and was named Canada’s best player for the game.

It was an exhilarating performance that all but guaranteed the two Avalanche prospects would earn top player honours when the time came. And they did.


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Cale Makar and Conor Timmins were the top players for the Canadians as they won World Junior gold. Nobody scored more efficiently than Makar, and nobody defended better than Timmins. The two were at their best when their team needed them most, and they excelled when paired together.

Now, for some biased sore winning, but it’s baffling that Makar didn’t see more ice time. Hockey Canada named him the team’s top player and he was the key to a powerplay that scored nearly 60% of the time. The next night, he barely played and was kept off a top powerplay unit that went 0-6. It’s hard to argue with a gold medal, but to name a guy one of your best players then not play him the next night is confounding. Ray Ferrarro made a similar point in the TSN broadcast.

I also wonder how Timmins wasn’t at least named to the All-Star team, if not the tournament’s best defenceman. Rasmus Dahlin was incredible, but Timmins was every bit as good. He was only one point behind Dahlin, was +15 to Dahlin’s +7, and was on the ice for only 1 even strength goal against in 7 games. If that’s not enough, he made the play that won the gold medal.

Next: Makar Charming Fans

The most important thing though, is that they won gold, and played fantastic in doing so. Makar was so good he’s rumoured to be on Hockey Canada’s radar for the Olympic team. Timmins should be as well.

The Colorado Avalanche’s blueline hasn’t looked this promising in a long, long time.