The 2017 NHL draft is less than two months away, and while it’s a near certainty that centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier will be taken with the first two picks, after that the picture gets a bid muddy.
Gabe Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt, and Cody Glass are three forwards who could be taken next.
But for a team looking to bolster its defense, Cale Makar has to be a consideration.
Makar absolutely tore it up (24G, 51A) in 54 regular-season games for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. A right shot, the 18-year-old has been compared to Erik Karlsson.
“To be honest, being compared to such a great player in the NHL and the captain of Ottawa, it’s very humbling,” Makar said recently, per the Calgary Sun. “I think that obviously there is a long way to get there, but to even be compared to a guy like that, at this age, it’s pretty special.”
The 2017 draft class is not considered particularly deep in defensemen. Makar, Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki, Miro Heiskanen, Nicolas Hague, and Callan Foote are all blue-liners who should be off the board by the end of the first round.
How long it takes Makar to get snapped up will be interesting to see. At 5-foot-11 and 179 pounds, he’s not the biggest guy. And the AJHL is a second-tier junior league, one rung below the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL.
But the way the NHL is trending, with puck-moving defensemen an absolute necessity, those Karlsson comparisons may prove tough to resist.