In the second period of the Colorado Avalanche’s game against the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday night, Cale Makar cleared the puck from the defensive zone and Logan O’Connor skated into it before putting it in the net for a shorthanded goal.
While it was an exciting play, what gave the marker extra meaning was the fact it was the 250th point of Makar’s NHL career.
That milestone is on the niche side, but it’s notable in this case because Makar became the fastest defenseman to reach it, beating out Bobby Orr by six games. Considering the Avalanche defenseman already has a Calder Trophy, Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy on his shelf, it was already clear his career was off to a good start, but this achievement puts his accomplishments — at least on the offensive side — into perspective.
Of the 281 NHL defensemen to ever accumulate 250 points, Makar’s career points-per-game total ranks third all-time (1.037). The only guys ahead of him are Orr and Paul Coffey.
Although Makar got to 250 points faster than Orr, it’s probably worth dismissing the Boston Bruins legend as a comparison point. Orr reached the NHL at the age of 18, which explains why he took a couple of years to reach his peak — but the Hall of Famer’s run from 1967-68 to 1974-75 which included eight consecutive Norris Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, and 829 points in 560 games is probably the most impressive stretch by any NHL player in the league’s 107 seasons.
Let’s put Orr aside for a moment.
Besides the best defenseman the NHL has ever seen, Makar is looking peerless as a point producer from the blue line. That’s not just because he’s reached an admittedly-arbitrary total faster than other notable defensemen, but also because of the era he’s done it in.
It’s not a coincidence that the top five point-scoring defensemen of all time — Ray Bourque, Coffey, Al McInnis, Phil Housley, and Larry Murphy — were born between the years of 1960 and 1964. All of those guys are unbelievable players, but getting to start their careers in the NHL’s offensive golden age of the 1980s helped them rack up points.
Makar is putting points on the board at a faster rate than almost every defenseman in NHL history in a much more difficult time to do so.
Looking further down the board of the fastest blueliners to 250 points, we find Denis Potvin (251 games), Brian Leetch (253 games) and Paul Coffey (260 games).
In the years Potvin was making his climb to 250, teams averaged between 3.20 and 3.43 goals per game with the league-average save % hovering between .890 and .896. For Leetch, those numbers are 3.46 to 3.71 and .879 to .888. Coffey’s offensive environment was even more extreme (3.51 to 4.01 and .873 to .882). All three accumulated more than 1,000 points — showing there isn’t a precedent for starting as hot as Makar and slowing down in a profound way.
During Makar’s young career, teams have never averaged more than 3.18 goals per game and goaltenders’ collective save % has never dipped below .904, staying above .907 in every season except 2022-23. It’s simply much harder to score now than it was when the NHL’s other great offensive defenseman were getting started.
If you take all historical context away, the Avalanche defenseman appears on track to be one of the best point-scoring defensemen of all time — but when you add it back in, his accomplishments are all the more impressive.
Considering Makar is just short of his 25th birthday, the sky is the limit for his career numbers. Perhaps the only thing that can stop him from climbing the all-time leaderboards is injuries, as he’s played just 82.3% of Colorado’s game in his first five seasons.
With a little injury luck, the 24-year-old has a path to being the second-best offensive defenseman of all-time — even if Orr’s crown is out of reach.