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Jan 08The WJC summed up in seven thoughts
Jan 08The future of Avalanche blueline resides in Canada
Jan 06Gold medal recap: Canada wins gold at WJC in Buffalo
Jan 05WJC Semifinals Recap – Sweden, Canada advance to gold medal game
Jan 03WJC Quarterfinals Recap: The Czechs upset Finland – Canada cruises to semifinals

January 08, 2018

The future of Avalanche blueline resides in Canada

Cale Makar.
Conor Timmins.
Samuel Girard.

If you are a hockey fan, chances are you’ve heard one or more of these names mentioned at least once. Perhaps ahead of the World Junior Championships, perhaps during it – most definitely during various sports broadcasts if you follow the Colorado Avalanche in any way, shape or form.

Cale Makar and Conor Timmins both took center stage recently for Team Canada, helping the team add another WJC gold medal to its already impressive resumé. The young defenders both excelled when called upon as each member of the supposed “Big Three” of Canadian defenders – Jake Bean, Kale Clague and Dante Fabbro – went down with injuries at different junctions of the championship. Meanwhile, Samuel Girard was already turning heads and executing spin moves at the top level of professional hockey in the NHL. The creative blueliner, who has affectionately become known as “Sam” among the Colorado Avalanche faithful, is approaching 30 games with the club and has certainly made his case to stay with the Avs all season long.

Outside of their 1998 birth years, Canadian heritage and status as Colorado Avalanche defensive prospects – Makar, Timmins and Girard have few things in common.

Conor Timmins was drafted by the Avalanche at the very start of the 2nd round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (32nd overall) and has had the most “traditional” prospect route of the three players mentioned. The Ontario native is considered a steady, reliable presence on the blueline – a classic example of the modern defenseman if you will – with equal ability to kickstart an offensive rush as well as shutting an opposing one down.

“I think I’m a two-way defender. I think my hockey IQ is probably my biggest strength. I can make plays offensively, make a good first pass and play strong defense as well”, Timmins told NHL.com shortly after being drafted this summer.

Timmins registered five points (1+4) in seven games with Canada during the 2018 WJC and drew lots of praise from scouts and journalists alike for his two-way game. He now returns to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL where he will continue his third campaign. After registering 13 points (4+9) in 60 games during his rookie season, his sophomore year saw those numbers soar drastically to 61 points (7+54) in 67 games only to improve even further this season as he has amassed 34 points (6+28) already in just 28 games played.

All this talk of scoring brings us to Cale Makar.

The 5’11”, 181 lbs defender tied Libor Hajek of the Czech Republic for the defender scoring title in Buffalo. Makar scored 8 points (3+5) in 7 games, outproducing some of the tournaments biggest names like Rasmus Dahlin, Miro Heiskanen, Timothy Liljegren and Olli Juolevi. Becoming “Dude where’s Makar?” with an entire nation as Canada lumbered (!) towards another WJC championship, the effervescently skating #7 had both fans and opponents transfixed as he delivered highlight-reel worthy plays each and every game.

Coming into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Makar was already one of the bigger feel-good stories out there. Overcoming doubts on both his size and quality of competition – the point-scoring defenseman came out of lesser known junior league AJHL – Makar ended up being drafted 4th overall in the first round by the Avs.

“It was a goal of mine to be in the first round and one of the high-caliber defensemen in this year’s draft, but I would have never thought of fourth overall. It’s pretty special. I’m very humbled. But the way I look at it, it’s just a number and it’s all about what you do after”, Makar told Colorado publication Denver Post just days after the draft.

After being drafted and completing the 2016/17 season with the Brooks Bandits, Makar committed to UMass (Amherst) of the American college league NCAA last fall. Thus far, he has amassed nine points (1+8) in 16 games for UMass which is quite a bit below his usual standards, for example: his last season in the AJHL saw him score 75 points (24+51) in just 54 games. However, it is no small feat to step into a lower-scoring league that features players a full three years older than any of the rookies playing and just begin producing points. For Makar, patience is the name of the game. With his tremendous ascent through the draft rankings last season and a fresh gold medal sitting in his trophy cabinet, the Alberta native has no shortage of things to feel good about and should have no trouble rising through the ranks again.

Speaking of rising through the ranks, let us stick the landing here with Samuel Girard.

The Quebec native was drafted later than both Timmins and Makar in terms of position (47th overall), albeit a year earlier in terms of drafts, being picked by the Nashville Predators in 2016. Girard has been in the news quite a bit in his whirlwind rookie NHL season. First by turning heads during the Predators training camp this summer and surprisingly making the opening night roster. Then, by scoring his first NHL assist and NHL goal all within his first three games. Then again when he was traded by Nashville to Colorado in the somewhat complicated three-party blockbuster trade that saw Matt Duchene end up in Ottawa and Kyle Turris become a Predator. Finally, when he was mentioned as one of the NHL re-enforcements that were on Team Canada’s radar ahead of the WJC.

Ultimately, Girard ended up staying with the Avs where he has amassed 7 points in (0+7) in 27 games, bringing his season total to 10 points (1+9) in 32 games. The flashy, roving defenseman absolutely loves to contribute offensively – perhaps more so than Makar even – and is as gifted a skater the league has seen among defensive prospects since Morgan Rielly first stepped on the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The potential brimming within these three players is enough to have any Avalanche fan salivating at the thought of them lining up next to the current Big Three on the Avs roster in Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov – preferably as soon as possible.

A first pairing of veteran Erik Johnson sweeping trouble under the rug for a charging Sam Girard, a steady Conor Timmins providing cover for a still-fast Tyson Barrie on the second pairing and a hulking Nikita Zadorov acting as the security blanket for Cale Makars roving antics on the third pair is a dream today. Tomorrow, it could be reality.


Hampus Duvefelt

08 January, 2018

The WJC summed up in seven thoughts

Rasmus Dahlin lived up to the hype: Since last June?s NHL draft, Rasmus Dahlin has been the face of 2018. For non-playoff teams in the NHL this season, Dahlin i...

06 January, 2018

Gold medal recap: Canada wins gold at WJC in Buffalo

USA 9, Czech Republic 3 Though Czech Republic was looking to win their first medal since the 2005 tournament, the host Americans were ultimately too much to ask...

05 January, 2018

WJC Semifinals Recap – Sweden, Canada advance to gold medal game

Sweden 4, USA 2 While the host Americans would have liked to win the gold medal for their home fans, Sweden commandingly earned a berth in the championship game...

03 January, 2018

WJC Quarterfinals Recap: The Czechs upset Finland – Canada cruises to semifinals

Czech Republic 4, Finland 3 The first quarterfinal game on Day 8 was arguably the best of the bunch. The Czechs battled back from two different one-goal deficit...

02 January, 2018

WJC 2018 Quarterfinal Preview – here are the match-ups

Czech Republic vs. Finland The opening game of the quarterfinal round pits together two teams both looking at an uphill battle to come out of the tournament wit...

01 January, 2018

Casey Mittelstadt clear MVP through group stage; 2018 draft-eligibles shine

 It?s a difficult time to be a Buffalo Sabres fan. The team currently sits dead last in the NHL?s Eastern Conference and are on their way to missing the playoff...

01 January, 2018

Recap of Day 6: Sweden tops Group B, USA pulls out late win against Finland

 Czech Republic 6, Switzerland 3 Despite being outshot 60-30 in this one, Switzerland kept the game competitive well into the third period. After falling behind...

31 December, 2017

Kurashev leading second wave of talented Swiss prospects

When Nico Hischiers name was called first in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, he became the first Swiss player to ever be drafted first overall. In fact, in the last t...

31 December, 2017

Recap of Day 5: Canada tops out in Group A – Sweden takes third straight win

Czech Republic 6, Belarus 5 In arguably the tournament?s most back-and-forth game, Czech Republic managed their second victory of the tournament. Belarus scored...

29 December, 2017

The call him “The Hunter” – meet the Caps’ rising prospect

He will never be mistaken for an offensive superstar, but Axel Jonsson Fjällby has attributes that appeal to the masses. Selected 147th overall by the Washingto...

29 December, 2017

Recap of Day 3: Slovakia upsets United States, Finland dominates Denmark 

Finland 4, Denmark 1 This game?s score was a lot more flattering than it could have been. The Finns dominated Denmark all game, peppering 62 shots on goal while...

28 December, 2017

Recap of Day 2 – Canada pushes past Slovakia to remain perfect

Canada 6, Slovakia 0 While it wasn?t set to be a rout from the opening faceoff, there was never much doubt as to who was going to win this game. Canada hopped o...

27 December, 2017

Will Czech Republic’s Necas and Chytil continue to produce their magic?

Czech Republic has never been a small fry on the international hockey stage. Consistently producing NHL stars such Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and David Pastrnak...

27 December, 2017

Recap of Day 1 – Czechs confirm dark horse status with win over Russia

Czech Republic 5, Russia 4 This was certainly the story of the day. The Czech Republic entered the tournament as the dark horse. They have a bevy of skill we ha...

26 December, 2017

Russia looks to extend WJC streak with largely unknown squad 

There has been nobody more consistent at the World Juniors than Russia. They?ve medalled in each of the past seven tournaments, and only four times since they s...

26 December, 2017

Rasmus Dahlin highlights Swedish squad looking to end medal drought 

For the last three tournaments, Sweden has gone undefeated in the group stage only to come up short come playoff time. They haven?t won a medal since losing to ...

26 December, 2017

Talented Finnish team eager to make amends after last year’s fiasco

After a disastrous showing in the 2017 WJC group stage that resulted in a mass firing of the coaching staff, Finland?s U-20 team is back for World Juniors (bare...

26 December, 2017

Who belongs where? – The WJC players and the NHL teams they are drafted by

The World Juniors give the future stars a chance to show what they’re made of. Many of these players will make an impact in the NHL, maybe as soon as next...

25 December, 2017

Too good for the World Juniors – here are the players you’ll miss in Buffalo

As usual, the World Juniors will be played without the best junior players in the world. They are already suiting up and making a difference in the NHL. Last ye...

25 December, 2017

WJC Countdown: Zibanejad ends Sweden’s gold drought in OT

The gold medal game of Sweden-Russia at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship was full of talking points and the possibility of being a high-octane, back-an...

24 December, 2017

United States send roster loaded with offensive talent to Buffalo

The United States enters the 2018 World Juniors as the defending champions after a thrilling shootout win over Canada in last year?s tournament. The Americans a...

24 December, 2017

WJC Countdown: Chubarov nets twice in 1999 final

Hosted in Winnipeg as well as five other communities around Manitoba, the 1999 World Juniors was, in many ways, the last of its kind. Playing games in Brandon, ...

23 December, 2017

WJC Countdown: David Aebischer leads Switzerland to first-ever World Juniors medal 

Since the mid-1990s, Switzerland has been a mainstay at the World Juniors.  They?re generally playing to stay in the top division, fighting off regulation rathe...

23 December, 2017

The curious case of Sean Day

Only three players had ever been granted ?exceptional status? by the Canadian Hockey League back in 2013: John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid. The ter...

22 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Peter Forsberg sets tournament record with whopping 31 points 
22 December, 2017Revolutionizing the game of hockey: who will be next?
21 December, 2017WJC Countdown: The NHL lockout allowed Canada to ice a historically-good team in 2005
21 December, 2017Back in the spotlight
21 December, 2017Russia’s Svechnikov fighting for roster spot, high draft position
20 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Kapanen’s heroics etch his name in Finnish history
20 December, 2017Predicting the top scorer for the 2018 World Junior Championships
19 December, 2017European free agents providing value for NHL clubs
19 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Kazakhstan upsets Canada in front of tiny crowd
18 December, 2017WJC Countdown: United States wins first-ever gold medal after bizarre own-goal
18 December, 2017The five WJC defenders most likely to be on an NHL roster this fall
17 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Russia snaps gold medal drought in 2011 with three ridiculous comebacks
17 December, 2017Canada leaves skill at home in favour of balanced team
17 December, 2017CHL talent has history of producing gems on American roster
16 December, 2017The matter of talent development in Sweden
16 December, 2017WJC Countdown: Tavares’ MVP showing and Eberle’s clutch goal lead Canada to fifth-straight gold
15 December, 2017Makar looking to join rare group of Canadian NCAA stars
15 December, 2017A beginner’s guide to the CHL
14 December, 2017Cool as a cucumber – Rasmus Dahlin ready to embrace the pressure of the WJC
14 December, 2017Is Canada leaving too much skill at home?
14 December, 2017Is Flyers’ prospect Hart a lock for the Canadian starter’s job?
14 December, 2017Edmonton Oilers give Kailer Yamamoto the chance to shine at the WJC
13 December, 2017The Olympic Kids – prospects that starred on the big stage
13 December, 2017Can any of the WJC underdogs break through in Buffalo?  
12 December, 2017A Russian trend – three forwards headed for the first round?
12 December, 2017Deep Russian squad looks to extend medal streak 
11 December, 2017The 2018 WJC underdog that could win it all
11 December, 2017The World Junior Championships – an audition for the Olympics
10 December, 2017Sweden’s elite talent looks to end cycle of WJC mediocrity
10 December, 2017Lukas Vejdemo – taking the patient route to the NHL
09 December, 2017Nicklas Lidström on Rasmus Dahlin: “He looks like Brian Leetch”
09 December, 2017Where are they now? – Three forgotten WJC stars
08 December, 2017Breaking down Team Canada’s roster snubs
08 December, 2017Finland on the rebound after disastrous showing at last year’s WJC 
07 December, 2017Away from the spotlight
07 December, 2017Why Adam Boqvist wasn’t picked for the Swedish WJC camp
07 December, 2017Sabres faithful may get chance to see Mittelstadt shine
06 December, 2017Aleksi Heponiemi – Poised for success
06 December, 2017The hunt for the next Erik Karlsson
06 December, 2017Americans look to finally come through on home ice 
05 December, 2017Canada no longer dominates the WJC like they used to 
05 December, 2017Redefining the modern defenseman
05 December, 2017What the Swedish WJC team should look like