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Taylor Makar still has more work to do, but his famous brother's influence hasn't stopped him from progressing

Massachusetts forward Taylor Makar (18) skates during the first period an NCAA hockey game against Brown University on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Greg Cooper)

Taylor Makar has decided to follow the path of his well-known brother, but the Colorado Avalanche prospect is finding his own way to navigate the journey.

Taylor Makar has heard all of the chirps.

Makar has decided to follow the same path as his famous brother, starting by playing for the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL and now at the University of Massachusetts. It's likely he'll hear about it on Thursday, when UMass plays the University of Denver in the opening round of the 2024 NCAA men's ice hockey tournament in Springfield, Mass.

Yes, he's the younger brother of Colorado Avalanche superstar Cale Makar. If that's an opposing player's plan to get inside his head, good luck with that.

“He had so many things said to him on the ice,” said Brooks coach Ryan Papaioannou, who has coached both brothers. “But the best part was, he came from the same family and he had the same mindset. He’s got lots of humility and he would laugh at it. Those guys would tell him like, ‘Your brother’s way better than you.’ He would laugh and go, ‘Of course he is. Good one.'”

The younger Makar is a junior forward for the Minutemen. That’s one difference. He’s also 6-foot-3 and pushing 200 pounds, which means Cale is looking up at him.

While his brother is a little more reserved, Taylor is outgoing, and his play on the ice has a loud, in-your-face quality to it. Finding his own way has always been part of the process for him.

“It wouldn’t be easy for anybody. It’s the hand he’s been dealt, and I’m sure it comes with pressure. I know it’s something he deals with, but he does extremely well. He’s a very consistent kid. Just fun loving, high energy with a positive attitude every day. He’s been enjoyable to coach.”

The Avalanche drafted Taylor in the seventh round of the 2021 NHL draft. It’s another reminder that his path to a career in professional hockey was always going to be different from his brother, who was the No. 4 pick in 2018.

“Taylor has a lot of assets that make him unique. He’s 6-foot-3. He skates really well. He can play a big, fast, hard game,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “That makes him a pro prospect. He just needs to put it all together on a more consistent basis, and do a little more with the puck. He’s got a great attitude, great energy. When he plays, he really, really brings it.

Makar has four goals and nine points this season. He led the team in goals last year, but the puck hasn’t gone in as much for him this winter.

It’s been a different development path, but there have been flashes of the potential he possesses. Papaioannou pointed to the 2020-21 season, which was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular.

Markar had 19 points in 16 games. But on a team that included Sean Chisholm, now the captain at Dartmouth, and T.J. Hughes, who has 44 points for Michigan this season, his coach saw that there was more in there.

“Taylor grew into what I think would have been the most dominant player in the league the COVID season,” Papaioannou said. “He was a beast that season. Had we played 60 (games), he would have done some pretty cool things.”

Makar missed out on part of a season because of the pandemic, and then he was a part-time player for UMass as a freshman, appearing in 17 games. That was key development time for a player with intriguing tools but also one who needs more refinement.

He will probably go back to college for his senior year, but the Avalanche might still sign him and observe how his career progresses in the minor leagues.

“He needs to improve his offensive abilities,” Carvel stated. “His size and speed are great advantages, but when he has the puck, he needs to hold onto it more and create more. That's the main thing. If he continues to improve his puck skills, his game has the potential to expand significantly.”

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