Carvel, UMass awaiting decisions from Makar, Ferraro

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar, left, has control of the puck against Vermont, March 1 at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE STAFF / Caroline O’Connor

  • Mario Ferraro skates against Queens at the Mullins Center, Sept. 30. GAZETTE STAFF / Caroline O’Connor

Monday, March 12, 2018

Like almost every other UMass student, freshmen defensemen Mario Ferraro and Cale Makar left campus for spring break this week.

Unlike most of their classmates, their return isn’t assured.

It’s an annual ritual in college hockey whenever a team’s season ends, questions arise about whether drafted underclassmen will choose to turn pro or return to school.

Makar, a first-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche, and Ferraro, a second-round pick of the San Jose Sharks, both had strong freshman seasons.

Ferraro had four goals and 19 assists, while Makar had five goals and 16 assists. Both are candidates to be honored as all-rookie players by Hockey East when the league’s postseason awards are announced later this week.

UMass coach Greg Carvel expected Ferraro to be back, but was less confident about Makar.

“I think 99 percent Mario will be back. Cale is in talks with Colorado. I don’t know what they’re going to say to him. We felt all along that Cale will be coming back,” said Carvel, who said he expected to sit down with each of his players after spring break. “I don’t know if he feels turning pro right now is the right thing or not. I won’t be surprised if Colorado wants that to happen. I’m just kind of waiting to hear back from Cale and see what they’re saying to him.”

Carvel, who was an NHL assistant coach in Ottawa, said he thought both players would eventually thrive as professionals, but thought they would benefit from another year of development.

“They’re both going to be NHL players. I believe you should be overripe to make that jump rather than underripe. I think it would be best for both of them to come back for another year,” Carvel said. “I’d like to see both of them come back and take this team to the next level and be recognized as all-league and all-American and maybe Hobey Baker candidates. They’re both going to play pro hockey for 10-15 years. It’s not a rush to get a paycheck.

“I think it’s important, for your first-year pro, you want to be ready. It’s mentally and physically demanding. They’re still 19 years old,” continued Carvel, who conceded that the Avalanche and Sharks might have different views. “I think it would be best for both of them to continue to develop with us at this level. That’s with complete disregard to what the teams that hold their NHL rights think.”

Ferraro didn’t directly discuss his plans after Saturday’s season-ending loss, but he sounded like someone who expected to be back.

“It shows how much we have to elevate for next year. It doesn’t scare us,” Ferraro said. “Next year we have a lot of new freshmen coming in and the freshman from this year have to elevate and get stronger. It’s exciting. This group is something real special. We achieved over a lot of people’s expectations. We’re pumped up for next year.”

Makar hasn’t said anything publicly about his intentions. After playing in the World Junior Tournament in January, he elected to return to UMass rather than join the Canadian Olympic team. Canadian media speculated that was an indication that he planned to return to school. Playing in the Olympics would have put him behind academically.

Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal tweeted:

“NHL sources telling me Colorado Avalanche 4th overall pick Cale Makar is leaning on returning to UMass for sophomore season. Would be huge for Minutemen.”

There is no deadline for players to make a decision.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage