Despite Cale Makar connection, Kraken’s Ryker Evans desperate to chart personal course


Inside the NHL

No one is about to liken Kraken prospect Ryker Evans to a different offensive-minded defenseman from his Calgary, Alberta, hometown who final season snagged a Triple Crown’s price of {hardware}.

But given the Evans household is buddies with that of Stanley Cup champion Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche, who additionally occurs to be the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP and Norris Trophy recipient because the NHL’s high defenseman, it’s a troublesome connection to miss. Especially when Evans, 20, as soon as teamed on a squad coached by his father, Mike, for a number of years of spring hockey with Makar’s youthful brother, Taylor, through which his future NHL All-Star sibling sometimes confirmed up and took the ice with them.

“I grew up playing with his brother, so we were always together,” stated Evans, the Kraken’s second-round draft decide final 12 months who signed a three-year, entry-level take care of the membership this summer time. “We were always at their house. And we know their family real well.”

That stated, this fall is about Evans charting his personal NHL course. It started with this week’s rookie camp on the Kraken Community Iceplex earlier than Evans takes half in his second NHL coaching camp beginning Thursday.

“My goal as always is to come here and prove myself as to why I belong on a team and how I can help,” Evans stated.

Having to show himself worthy of inclusion has just about been the story of his hockey life. Evans represents the primary severe gamble on newbie expertise taken by the Kraken franchise, one which skeptics possible gained’t be glad with till he’s suited up in Seattle colours — maybe sooner or later this season — and swinging outcomes.

While final 12 months’s No. 2 total choice, Matty Beniers, and this summer time’s No. 4 total decide, Shane Wright, had been draft no-brainers, Evans being taken at No. 35 total in July 2021 had jaws hitting the ground. 

Few anticipated Evans to go increased than the fourth spherical, owing largely to elements plaguing him since these youth hockey days hanging across the Makars. It was by no means a given Evans would even make groups not coached by his dad, owing to an absence of measurement brought on by early struggles with Celiac illness — an immune-system response to gluten that stops the physique from absorbing key vitamins — and a delayed development spurt that solely critically started throughout his junior profession with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.

Still, even in opposition to boys practically twice his measurement, Evans stored proving he belonged. Often he proved he belonged at a degree increased, although the whispers about his lack of measurement endured. 

The junior-level Pats didn’t take him within the Bantam draft till 209th total earlier than simply 22 gamers. And that was solely after a former Everett Silvertips participant turned scout named Campbell Elynuik put his fame on the road pleading with the Pats to pick a participant then solely 5 toes 3 and 110 kilos.

Legend has it the complete Kraken scouting workers made comparable pleas to normal supervisor Ron Francis to take Evans after seeing him play just one full WHL season. He’d damaged his leg his rookie marketing campaign, performed a full schedule in 2019-20, then had his predraft season shortened to 24 video games by the pandemic. 

Still, he’d been a point-a-game participant these two dozen contests, scoring three targets and main all WHL defensemen with 25 assists. His superior analytics on issues reminiscent of offensive-zone entries, anticipated targets when he shoots and drawing major assists on scoring by teammates, had been rink lengths forward of others at his place.

And oddly sufficient, the place some prospects may really feel stress to show themselves to an NHL group going out on such a limb, the Kraken’s choice put Evans relaxed.

It was, in any case, the primary time in his profession a group appeared to counsel there was a spot for him on the subsequent degree. Freed from that unknown, he spent his remaining WHL season perfecting what hooked the Kraken within the first place.

Evans scored 14 targets and added 47 assists in 63 video games. 

“I had a bigger role on that team, so it was a lot more fun,” Evans stated. “I got more reps, and it allowed me to work on my game and to develop. So going into last season it was just playing for my [entry-level] contract and allowing me to show them my skills and all that stuff. It was a bit of a weight lifted off my shoulders for sure.”

And this summer time, with no early WHL coaching camp to attend, he crammed these additional weeks coaching along with his dad — a famend Calgary power-skating coach counting a number of NHL and junior gamers as former pupils. New Kraken assistant coach Dave Lowry, who lives in Calgary, hung out on the ice with them.

Last month, father and son additionally watched Makar and teammate Logan Connor parade the Stanley Cup down town’s Bow River in a ship throughout the non-public time they obtained to spend with the trophy. Makar has educated on and off with Evans’ dad and as soon as crammed in as a goalie for him at a 3-on-3 youth match on New Year’s Eve in 2011.

“I know both families, and it was their two big crowds [of friends] that were out there,” Mike Evans stated. “So we both got to watch it from a distance.”

And even distant goals have a approach of changing into actuality.

Makar was seen as equally “undersized” when drafted by the Avalanche and nonetheless is listed at simply 5-11, 187 kilos. And whereas nobody is touting Evans as a future Norris Trophy winner, there’s a comfortable center floor between that and a prospect.

The Kraken would love for Evans and the left-handed shot he spent the summer time honing, together with skating explosiveness that first caught their eye, to grow to be a puck-moving blue-line mainstay. He’ll possible start this season with the AHL Coachella Firebirds earlier than an NHL debut that would comply with as early as subsequent spring.

For the document, the Kraken have Evans listed at 5-11, 189 on their training-camp roster. Unofficially, someone wants to purchase the Kraken a greater tape measure.

Standing subsequent to him the opposite day, I can confidently assert that he’s no less than 6-1. Evans didn’t dispute my estimate.

“They’ve gotta start giving me a couple of inches,” he quipped.

And as soon as they do, the Kraken hope Evans takes a mile.


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