Prospect Weekly: Context

As the hockey season finally begins to get into full swing across the globe, there’s finally enough to delve into beyond awesome highlights (which of course we’ll still have those), if even the sample size and time of year still both carry enormous caveats.

Cale Makar made his much anticipated NCAA debut with UMass scoring an assist and four shots on goal in a weekend split against Arizona State. It was a treat to watch Makar via the ASU provided live stream to both witness him embarking on this next stage in his development but also to get a glimpse in an attempt to unravel the still enigmatic game of his. What we saw was the Makar as advertised: incredible skater, made smart quick decisions with the puck, and a sound defender. What also was evident were the fears that UMass has a long way to go before they’ll be competitive in games against the powerhouse programs in their conference. The game resembled some high school level of hockey, a lot of unstructured back and forth action.

Naturally this all leads to the question of if someone with the enormous talent and ability that Makar possesses then why didn’t he run roughshod through the competition? It is still a team game and it’s tough to do much without having the puck. Possession wasn’t much to be found nor any sort of involving defensemen in the offensive zone. Still, the hope is once Makar and the team get more comfortable that production will come. It also seemed at least initially that the focus from the UMass coaching staff was to lean on Makar defensively as he played a lot of penalty kill and 5 on 3 minutes. It’s that area of development that will perhaps be the most important in his time in college as Makar looks to turn pro sooner than later.

Currently the most interesting present trajectory of any Avalanche prospect is new signee Ty Lewis, who continues to tear up the WHL for the Brandon Wheat Kings. He currently has 17 points in seven games including two goals (see below) and five assists in a three in three over the weekend. He is the third leading scorer at the moment in the WHL and leads his team as well. Lewis has scored in every game since returning from Avalanche camp and shows no signs of slowing down.

It’s been nice to get to watch Lewis in action with Brandon. He’s expectedly one of the offensive leaders on the team, the top line left winger and on the first power play unit. He even does some penalty killing and is solid defensively. After witnessing what he could do against professionals, seeing Lewis where he is most comfortable has been fun and interesting. He has a lot more power in his game than I expected, as shown in the second goal. Lewis is a bit feisty as well and doesn’t shy away from the tough areas or physicality. The first goal shows off his tenacity and no quit on a play. I’ve also been impressed with his puck skills and knows where to take the puck to make a play.

This is all fantastic and exciting for Avalanche fans to have a free prospect that’s starting out with an outstanding year. Ultimately it’s tough to judge Lewis’ ceiling and rank within the prospect system as he is in his 19 year old season and expected to produce good numbers as one of the leaders on his team. Obviously keeping up the blistering pace isn’t expected either. But it’s a good reminder of what a kid can do with confidence and perhaps an extra boost from signing a contract. Plus kudos to the Avalanche organization for pulling the trigger on locking up someone who is showing an upward trajectory and a good chance to take that they can contribute professionally and hopefully in the NHL one day. We’ll be watching Lewis closely this season.

Denis Smirnov began his season at Penn State over the weekend as well. He created a number of chances in his debut against Clarkson but was held off the scoresheet. Finally the next evening he broke through and recorded a goal and two assists against St. Lawrence. Smirnov is poised to have another strong offensive season as a sophomore.

CHL Update shows the Greyhounds moving up.

For Your Viewing Pleasure:

Penn State visits Minnesota for a weekend series. Those games should be found on the Fox Sports Go ap but might be limited to regional restrictions. Those game take place on Friday, October 13th at 6pm MT and Sunday, October 15th at 2pm MT.

For their part, Notre Dame kicks off their NBCSN coverage with a series against the defending champs from Denver. The Friday the 13th game is at 5:30pm MT and Saturday the 14th at 4pm MT. Both games should be on television and also available on the NBC Sports ap and website.

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