At a shade under six feet and weighing 165 pounds, Jake Evans is usually not the biggest player on the ice. But he’ll play as if he is the biggest player on ice.
Selected in the second round by the Otters in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection, Evans has earned a reputation as a tough player to play against in a career that began when he was three years old in Thorold, Ontario.
The pressure of scouts watching his every move during his OHL draft year can affect the mentality of a young hockey player, but Evans knew the way to shake out those nerves.
“It was a great experience,” Evans said about playing in front of scouts. “It was a little nerve wracking, as you have to show up for every shift. I knew I could never take a shift off.”
Evans’ work ethic on the ice paid off as he helped lead the Welland Tigers to the OMHA championship over the Barrie Colts.
A few months later, he received the call from the Otters that Erie would be the next stop in his hockey career. It was a thrilling moment for a player who didn’t expect to go as high in the draft as he did.
“It’s definitely an honor to be selected that high,” Evans said. “I would’ve been happy with just getting drafted. For (the Otters) to think of me that way, that’s an honor. That’s great.”
Despite his smaller stature, Evans likes to model his game after a player known for his size; San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton.
“He’s a centerman like me,” Evans said. “He wins most of his faceoffs. He’s hard working, scores a lot of goals and he’s able to set up his teammates.”
Evans also prides himself on playing two-way hockey, a prototypical player for the Otters, who under head coach Robbie Ftorek have placed a big emphasis on defensive awareness.
A lot of the credit for the player Evans has become is owed to his father Mark and Tigers coach Rick Berard, who have influenced him to become a better player.
“They gave me a lot of motivation and helped me through everything in my career,” Evans said.
In his OHL career, Evans could be joined by a familiar face in Erie. His teammate in Welland, Ryan Coulter, was selected by the Otters in the sixth round of the 2011 OHL Priority Selection.
Evans and Coulter have been close friends for several years.
“He’s a great kid,” Evans said. “We were pretty close on the Tigers. He’s fun to be around, and it’s great to be drafted on the same team as him.”
In the offseason leading up to his first OHL campaign, Evans has kept busy by working out in the gym daily for three hours. He hopes that regimen will get him prepared for what he hopes will be a successful rookie year in Erie.
“I know I’ll have to earn my keep,” Evans said. “You just have to play every game like it’s your last and keep working really hard.”