When he sees Cale Makar, Anson Carter sees Duncan Keith, the three-time Stanley Cup champ and two-time Norris Memorial Trophy winner.
Ken Daneyko sees Bobby Orr.
Hang on. The eight-time Norris winner? The generational D-man?
That Bobby Orr?
“I don’t say this lightly,” Daneyko, the former NHL defenseman and NHL Network analyst, said in a phone interview. “I’ve said it on the (NHL’s) network — I don’t think we’ve seen a defenseman like Cale Makar in decades. And I’d go back as far as Bobby Orr. The kid’s that special.”
That Bobby Orr.
And here’s the bonkers part: Insiders say Makar, whose Avalanche teammates are slated to face the St. Louis Blues in a second-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series, is only scratching the surface in just his third full season — and fourth postseason run — of his young NHL career.
Which means, after a fortnight for the record books, there’s more to come. During a four-game sweep of the Nashville Predators in the first round, the 23-year-old Alberta native became the first blue-liner in league history — Orr didn’t do it, Keith didn’t pull it off, either — to post 10 points over the first four games of a postseason series.
“I don’t think there’s a ceiling to his game,” Carter, the former NHL winger and current Turner Sports analyst, told The Post recently. “I believe, out of all the defensemen in the game, I think he can be the first D-man in the last number of years to get 100 points.
“He could be a 40-point goal scorer. He could score 50 from the back end. Especially with his size and his strength. (Nashville defenseman Roman) Josi, he drives the train by himself. That’s not the case with Colorado.”
“Best player in the league”
When he sees Cale Makar, Carter admits, he sees a little bit of Josi in there, too.
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He also sees a guy who, in that initial postseason series, was out there trying to make a point. Literally and figuratively.
“That first series by Makar, it was interesting for me to watch the way that he was competing,” Carter noted. “There was all that build-up of Josi versus Makar, and hockey players are competitive people.
“Cale might not say that was a big factor or a motivation, but I’ve played long enough, and with enough guys, that when these (opportunities) present themselves, you want to show people out there that you’re the best defenseman.”
The most multi-faceted, too. Makar out-dueled the Predators’ D-man, a fellow Norris Trophy finalist, in terms of goals (3 to 1), assists (7 to 1) and points (10 to 2).
“I call (Makar) a defenseman-slash-forward,” Carter continued. “Because he’s really just playing D because he’s in the lineup in that position at the face-off. But when the play is on, in his actions, all bets are off in terms of where Cale’s going to be. He’s not running around like a chicken with his head cut off. There’s a method to his madness.”
A fluidity. A grace.
“He’s definitely a ‘positionless’ player,” Carter said. “He’s just one step ahead of everybody else.”
And everybody else has been noticing.
“He might be the best player in the league right now,” teammate Nathan MacKinnon, no slouch himself, told reporters last week.
What also impresses Carter even more about Makar’s game is how much the Avs trust the young defenseman whenever they’re shorthanded, too. That a so-called “positionless” player still manages to make himself a plus on both sides of the ice.
“He’s got so many great players complementing him that I don’t see why he can’t be a 100-point D-man and still defend at a really high level,” Carter said.
“I look at the totality of a defenseman’s game. It’s not just about points, but the overall game … I see him being a Norris finalist for the next 10 years, if he can stay healthy.”
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) during game four of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs agains the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena May 09, 2022.
“He’s that good”
When Daneyko sees Cale Makar, he sees the best D-man in the game. No matter how the Norris voting eventually lands.
“You don’t know how the voting is going to go,” Daneyko said. “I had Makar, he’s always tough. But Josi’s year was pretty great, too, and was willing his (Predators) team into the playoffs. You can’t go wrong.
“Either way, I think we’re going to see consecutive Norris trophies for (Makar), whether he wins it this year or not. There’s no question in my mind that he wins a Norris or two.”
Daneyko sees some Scott Niedermayer in Makar’s game, too, especially when it comes to pure skating. Daneyko and Niedermayer were blueline teammates for a dozen seasons on the scrappy New Jersey teams of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.
“Niedermayer was more graceful, but having said that, the offensive finish and the touch and everything Makar has is at another level,” Daneyko said.
“Makar does things that nobody could do. His ability to cut, and then from a standstill, his explosiveness to get away from checkers, and then get to the net and finish? For a defenseman, it’s as good as I’ve seen.
“He is as fun a player to watch as I’ve seen in decades. And I don’t throw around that high of compliments to just anyone. It’s deserved. He is that good.”
As good as Bobby Orr?
That Bobby Orr?
“I think every guy I mentioned is either in or heading to the Hall of Fame,” Daneyko said. “That’s pretty high praise. And he is one special player.”