Former UMass star Cale Makar wins Calder Trophy as top NHL rookie

  • FILE - In this Dec. 27, 2019, file photo, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, left, looks to pass the puck as Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba covers in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Denver. Makar has won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File) David Zalubowski

Sports Editor
Published: 9/22/2020 3:46:53 PM

Cale Makar made history Monday night, becoming the first former UMass hockey player to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year.

The 21-year-old Colorado Avalanche defenseman earned 116 first-place votes and 54 second-place votes for 1,538 points from the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes was second (1,337).

Makar became the sixth player in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques franchise history to win the award, joining Peter Stastny, Peter Forsberg, Chris Drury, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.

“I’m extremely honored an humbled to accept this Calder Trophy,” Makar said in a televised call. “I can’t give enough thanks to each and every one of my Avalanche teammates. Honestly, I owe them a ton of credit for my success this season and it’s a pleasure to compete with those guys,

“To the coaching staff, obviously, thank you to the trust they showed in me through the entire season, and thank you to our trainers and everyone in the Avalanche administration for everything they did to help keep our focus on the ice. And then lastly, to the great fans of Denver. I’m extremely appreciative of the fantastic support you’ve shown me and our team.

Wayne Gretzky presented the Calder Trophy during Monday’s NHL Awards show.

“Honestly, to have Wayne Gretzky give it to me, that was pretty cool,” Makar told “I’ve never met him before, so that was a pretty surreal moment for me.”

Makar led all rookie defensemen in goals (12) and power-play goals (four) during the pandemic-shortened season. He finished second among all rookies with both 38 assists and 50 points.

“Congratulations on a phenomenal first year in the NHL. Congratulations on winning the Calder award. Not overly surprised,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said in a video tweeted by the Avs. “You were an elite player, a special player when you were at UMass and I told anybody who would listen that you were going to be a special player in the NHL. You had a phenomenal first year and I expect things to just get better.”

Makar helped the Avs finish with the second-best record (42-20-8) in the Western Conference. Makar had four goals and 11 assists in 15 postseason games.

“I think for us as a team, obviously we feel like we have a competitor next year,” he told “It’s going to be exciting times. We’re in a very exciting group, and we’re in a good spot. I know everybody’s just pumped to get back at it, that’s for sure. ... Obviously, the main goal is to help your team eventually get that Stanley Cup, and then after winning the award obviously you want to be able to prove to people why you did. So for me it’s just going to be trying to get better every day, come back next season better than I was this year.”

Makar was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team on Tuesday.

Makar was selected with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft. He spent two successful seasons at UMass, leading the Minutemen to the NCAA championship his sophomore year. He won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player. Within days after playing in the national championship, Makar turned pro and suited up Colorado in the 2019 NHL playoffs. He scored a goal on his first shot in his debute during Game 3 of the first-round series against Calgary.

Makar joins Drury as the only players to win both the Hobey Baker Award and the Calder Trophy. Drury won the 1997-1998 Hobey Baker Award as a senior at Boston University and the Calder the following year.

Mike Moran can be reached at Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

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