Cale Makar requires no introduction. Frankly, he never has.
Before Colorado's superstar defenseman entered household-name territory in June by earning a Norris Trophy, Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe honors in the span of a week, he was just another kid without a driver's license whose pure talent happened to stop NHL veterans in their tracks.
It has ever since.
"When Cale was about 16, we were hosting a camp for our current pros, and some of our young prospects," Scott Bartlett, Makar's longtime agent, recalled. "Cale came out there in his [AJHL] Brooks Bandits helmet, and after the first skate, those [NHLers] were like, 'Who is this guy?' He's just this kid with the rosy, red cheeks -- he's still got a baby face -- and they're [impressed]. These were guys playing at the NHL level and making pro money, and to have that type of knee-jerk reaction to the talent of a young kid was one of the first indicators where we really thought we had something special here."
Don't let the sparsely grown playoff beard fool you, either: Makar is a fully actualized NHL defenseman. And he's having the year of his life.
The 23-year-old dominated opponents in the regular season, gathering 28 goals and 86 points in 77 games. That earned Makar a second consecutive Norris Trophy nomination and his first victory, beating out two past winners in Roman Josi and Victor Hedman.
Makar was even better in the postseason, leading Colorado to its first Stanley Cup since 2001 over the two-time champion Tampa Bay Lightning. He did that playing over 27 minutes per game, being used on both special teams and pacing the Avalanche with 29 points in 20 games. The only players who scored more points in the playoffs: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Those Edmonton Oilers superstars had their own Cup aspirations but were sent packing after Colorado's four-game sweep of the Western Conference finals. Makar and defense partner Devon Toews were the shutdown tandem of note in that series. Draisaitl called them "one of the best D pairings in the league, if not the best."
Makar possesses the swagger to match.