Colorado Avalanche: Makar Shouldn’t Take the Jost Route Yet

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31: Colorado Avalanche center Tyson Jost (27) hits the ice during pregame before their game against the St. Louis Blues on March 31, 2017 in Denver, Colorado at Pepsi Center. Tyson Jost, the 2016 first-round draft choice signed his three-year entry level contract with the Avalanche. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MARCH 31: Colorado Avalanche center Tyson Jost (27) hits the ice during pregame before their game against the St. Louis Blues on March 31, 2017 in Denver, Colorado at Pepsi Center. Tyson Jost, the 2016 first-round draft choice signed his three-year entry level contract with the Avalanche. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

Colorado Avalanche prospect Cale Makar shouldn’t follow in Tyson Jost’s shoes and go pro after one season of collegiate hockey.

Colorado Avalanche defensive prospect Cale Makar has concluded his freshman year of hockey at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. he UMass Minutemen have been eliminated from the playoffs. Makar, of course, was the Avalanche’s fourth-overall draft pick from last summer.

The young defenseman now faces an important decision in the development of his career. This time last year, forward Tyson Jost faced the same decision.

Tyson Jost Decision

The Avalanche selected Tyson Jost 10th-overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. He had already committed to playing for the University of North Dakota, where his idol, Jonathan Toews, had spent two years developing.

That commitment was fine with the Colorado Avalanche. At the time they were in a transition and already had some young forwards to develop anyway, notably Mikko Rantanen.

Jost played the entire season with UND, earning 16 goals and 19 assists in 33 games. That was a great pace for a rookie — more than a point per game.

What’s more, when the Avalanche were in the area (in Minnesota anyway), GM Joe Sakic and coach Jared Bednar stopped by to watch Jost. This was in late December when Colorado already had an inkling the playoffs weren’t happening.

In any case, the UND Fighting Sioux made it to the West Regional Semifinal where they lost in double overtime to Boston University. That eliminated them from the playoffs.

That’s when Jost had his big decision to make — did he turn pro, or did he follow in Toews’ footsteps and stay amateur to play another year at UND?

It was a tough decision for the teenager, who took a week to make it. However, we know by now that Jost signed with Colorado on March 29, 2017. He flew to join the team at home and arrived for his first practice late by ready to go. He played his first NHL game two days later against the St. Louis Blues and scored his first NHL goal a week later against the (hated) Minnesota Wild.

Related Story: All About Jost's 1st NHL Goal

Cale Makar’s Decision is Different

colorado avalanche
AMHERST, MA – NOVEMBER 9: Cale Makar /

On the face of it, Cale Makar faces the exact same decision — go pro or stay on for another year of college hockey. However, the situation for Makar is completely different.

First of all, Makar is a defenseman, and d-man notoriously take longer to develop. (Sam Girard notwithstanding — no one knows where that wunderkind got his maturity.) Jost, as a forward, was going to face something of an easier transition.

What’s more, Jost was a smallish fish in an elite NCAA hockey program. Besides Toews, UND has turned out Travis Zajac, Zach Parise, TJ Oshie and Matt Greene — as well as Rocco Grimaldi. Makar is a big fish in a small pond — the coaches have literally called him the crown jewel of the team.

What does that matter? Well, Jost didn’t have the assurance that he would get the developmental attention since NHL draftees flock to UND. Conversely, Makar is the highest-ever draftee to play for UMass. Obviously they are dedicated to developing their crown jewel.

Next, there’s also a big difference in the team the player would be joining. With Jost, Colorado had been out of playoff contention for months. They had nothing to lose by slotting a teenage rookie into the lineup. Indeed, he played between 13 to 17 minutes in each of his six NHL games.

On the other hand, the current Avalanche are fighting hard for a playoff spot. A large part of that is team chemistry. They’ll be highly unlikely to risk slotting a teen rookie (another teen rookie) into the lineup while they still have a chance of making the playoffs. Makar would likely be sent to San Antonio. True that’s still professional hockey, but I just don’t see AHL playing time being a big draw for Cale Makar.

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

Finally, the current roster isn’t ideal for Makar. The Avalanche already have an agile, puck-moving teen defenseman in Sam Girard. They have their offensive defenseman veteran in Tyson Barrie. And they’ve just signed Conor Timmins to his entry-level contract. He’s, you guessed it, a puck-moving offensive defenseman. Even looking to next year, Colorado doesn’t need four versions of the same style of player.

Naturally the Avalanche would make room for Makar and commit to developing him. However, Timmins will already be in his first year of development and Girard in his second. Cale seems like a smart kid who knows what he wants in his career — and I don’t think he wants to risk anything less than the best, most focused development.

Again, this is a different situation than Jost faced. True, the Avalanche had a gaggle of rookies, including forwards, this season. Tyson wouldn’t have known that when he decided to go pro, though. What’s more, he was the only Avalanche prospect labeled untouchable by Sakic — he knew he’d get the attention he needed.

Makar Should Return to UMass

In conclusion, it makes the most sense for Cale Makar to return to UMass. He’s more likely to get the individual attention that will promote his development. He’ll get the ice time. And he’ll be on a team somewhat built around him.

In fact, it sounds like Makar is already leaning that way:

In fact, Avs insider Adrian Dater spoke with Makar’s college coach, Greg Carvel, for BSN. Carvel told Dater that the coaching staff expects Makar to return to UMass and hopes he’ll let them know within the next couple weeks.

Next: Makar Adding Value to UMass

The Colorado Avalanche don’t need Cale Makar right now. A year changes things. A year could see Colorado moving forward to being a regular playoff team or regressing. Either way they’d need a player like Makar more. A year can also see the trade of Tyson Barrie as the team continues with their youth movement.

I’ve opined all along that Makar would play at least two seasons at UMass. He was too firm in his commitment to even play for that college specifically. What’s more, he politely declined to play for Team Canada at the Olympics, and I thought that was partially so he could maintain his academic eligibility to play college hockey.

After next season, though, I want to see Cale Makar sign with the Colorado Avalanche. The absolute worst-case scenario would be to let him go the Will Butcher route. But he definitely doesn’t need to go the Tyson Jost route either.