Cale Makar Wins James Norris Memorial Trophy

The National Hockey League announced this evening that Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar is the recipient of the 2022 James Norris Memorial Trophy awarded “to the defense player who demonstrates the season the greatest all-around ability at his position.” The winner was chosen by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association in a poll at the end of the regular-season schedule.

Makar, who was a finalist for the award last season, becomes the first player in Avalanche/Nordiques franchise history to win the Norris Trophy. The 23-year-old led all NHL defensemen in goals (28) and finished second in points (86), setting single season franchise records for a defenseman in both categories. Makar, who’s 58 assists tied for fifth among rearguards, became the first defenseman with 25+ goals and 55+ assists in a season since Al MacInnis in 1990-91 with the Flames. Makar was one of five defensemen in the last 30 years to score 28 goals in a season, joining Brent Burns (29 in 2016-17), Mike Green (31 in 2008-09), MacInnis (28 in 1993-94) and Kevin Hatcher (34 in 1992-93).

Makar tied for first among NHL blueliners with six game-winning goals, one shy of the franchise mark for a defenseman, and ranked second with nine power-play goals, the most by a Colorado defender since Derek Morris had 10 in 2002-03. He scored three overtime goals, matching the single-season franchise held by David Jones (2010-11), Tyson Barrie (2013-14) and Nathan MacKinnon (2017-18). Cale ranked fifth in the league in plus/minus rating (+48) and finished sixth in average time-on-ice (25:40), the highest by an Avalanche player since Rob Blake (26:21) in 2002-03. Cale was just the third defenseman in NHL history to reach at least 25 goals, 55 assists, nine power-play goals, six game-winning goals and a +45 rating or better in a season, joining Denis Potvin in 1977-78 and Paul Coffee in 1984-85.

The Calgary, Alberta native participated in his first career All-Star Game on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas, the first Colorado blueliner to play in the All-Star Game since Rob Blake in 2003-04. He was named the NHL’s Third Star in consecutive weeks in late November, becoming only the second Avalanche player to earn the honor in back-to-back weeks (Pavel Francouz, February 2020). Makar had a five-game goal streak, Nov. 17-26, longest by a blueliner in team history, and notched his 16th tally of the year in his 29th game on Jan. 11, joining Bobby Orr (1974-75 and 1973-74) as the only defensemen in the modern era to score 16 or more goals prior to their 30th contest of a season. He recorded a franchise-record 13-game assist streak, Feb. 13-March 8, the fifth-longest by a defenseman in NHL history.

Makar currently leads the Avalanche and all NHL defensemen with 26 points (7g/19a) in 17 playoff games so far, the most by a Colorado/Quebec defenseman in a single postseason and tied for the fourth most points by a defenseman in a playoff year print NHL history. Makar’s 19 assists matched the franchise record for a single postseason, set by Peter Stastny in 1985 and also equaled by teammate Mikko Rantanen in these playoffs. Makar has 57 points (14g/43a) in 52 career playoff games, the second best points/game average (1.10) by a defenseman in NHL history behind Orr (1.24).

In 2020-21, Makar was a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team. He recorded 44 points (8g/36a) in 44 games, the only NHL blueliner to average a point-per-game last year. Makar was just the third defenseman in Avalanche/Nordiques history to be named to the NHL First All-Star Team, joining Sandis Ozolinsh in 1996-97 and Ray Bourque in 2000-01. He was the first Colorado player to make the First All-Star Team since Joe Sakic in 2003-04. Only four other defensemen in the last 50 years have made the NHL First All-Star Team before their 23rd birthday (as of the end of the regular season): Erik Karlsson (21 years old in 2011-12), Dion Phaneuf (22 in) 2007-08), Ray Bourque (19 in 1979-80 and 21 in 1981-82) and Denis Potvin (21 in 1974-75 and 22 in 1975-76).

Makar won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2019-20, becoming the first defenseman in Avalanche/Nordiques history to be named the league’s rookie of the year. He was the sixth player in franchise history to win the award and the fourth since the team relocated to Denver, joining Chris Drury (1998-99), Gabriel Landeskog (2011-12) and Nathan MacKinnon (2013-14). Peter Stastny (1980-81) and Peter Forsberg (1994-95) both won the Calder during the organization’s time in Quebec.

Makar was just the 12th defenseman in NHL history to win the Calder Memorial Trophy and only the second in the last 10 seasons, joining Aaron Ekblad in 2014-15. In addition to the Calder, Makar was also named to the 2019-20 NHL All-Rookie Team, the first Avalanche defenseman to be selected to the All-Rookie Team since John-Michael Lilis in 2003-04.

Makar finished second among NHL rookies in scoring during the 2019-20 season with 50 points (12g/38a) in 57 games. His 0.88 points-per-game average led all first-year players and tied for the third-highest total by a rookie defenseman in NHL history (min. 50 GP). Only Leetch (1.04, New York Rangers, 1988-89) and Murphy (0.95, Los Angeles Kings, 1980-81) averaged more.

The right-shot defenseman led all rookie blueliners with 12 goals that year and tied for first among all rookies with four game-winning tallies. Makar’s 38 assists ranked second among first-year skaters and he was first among rookie blueliners in even-strength goals (eight) and points (31) as well as power-play goals (four). Makar led Colorado’s blueline in points, goals and assists, all franchise records for a rookie defenseman. His four game-winning tallies were also a new franchise mark for a first-year backliner.

Makar went on to record 15 points (4g/11a) in 15 contests during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His 15 points were the second most ever by an NHL rookie defenseman in a single postseason, trailing only Quinn Hughes’ 16 points (2g/14a) in 17 contests that same year. Makar led all rookies that postseason in points-per-game (1.00) and plus/minus (+12), while ranking second in assists and third in both points and goals (tied). He was just the fifth rookie ever-and the only defenseman on that list-to average at least a point-per-game during a single playoff year (min 15 GP), joining forwards Don Maloney (1979, New York Rangers), Dino Ciccarelli (1981, Minnesota), Marian Stastny (1982, Quebec) and Ville Leino (2010, Philadelphia).

Selected by Colorado in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Makar spent two seasons at the University of Massachusetts, where as a sophomore in 2018-19 he became the first player in school history to win the Hobey Baker Award. He led the Minutemen to their first-ever No. 1 ranking that year and eventually a spot in the 2019 NCAA Frozen Four Championship Game.

Seventy-two hours after winning the Hobey Baker and 48 hours after playing in the NCAA title game, Makar scored his first NHL goal on his first shot in the opening period of Colorado’s Game 3 victory against Calgary in Round 1 on April 15, 2019. He became the first defenseman in history to score his first career goal while making his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite playing just 10 games, Makar ended up leading all NHL rookie defensemen with six points (1g/5a) during the 2019 postseason.

Internationally, Makar helped Team Canada win the gold medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo. He was named to the tournament’s all-star team after recording eight points (3g/5a) in seven games, tops among Canadian defensemen and tied for first among all blueliners.

The highest-drafted defenseman in Avalanche history, Makar was named the 2016-17 Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player, Alberta Junior Hockey League Most Valuable Player and the AJHL’s Most Outstanding Defenseman in his final season with the Brooks Bandits. He went on to become the highest drafted player in the history of the AJHL.

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