MONTREAL - Prospect Jake Evans was among several players representing the Canadiens at the Canadian Grand Prix this past weekend at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Watching the best and brightest in Formula 1 wasn't the only reason the 23-year-old centerman returned to Montreal from his native Toronto, though. Some training at the Bell Sports Complex was on the docket, too.
We caught up with Evans at the Habs' practice facility on Tuesday to learn more about his summer workout plans and his expectations for next season, among other subjects.
First and foremost, tell us about your very first F1 experience.
JAKE EVANS: It was my first race of any kind. Ryan Poehling and I went together. When we were driving in, we just heard a bunch of loud noises. It's actually pretty scary how fast they're going. I just couldn't believe how fast the cars were. We were right by a turn, too. It was amazing to see how quickly the drivers can brake and then accelerate right back up again. I also didn't realize how big the track was until we got there. You also understand how big F1 is to the city. It's huge. Ryan and I are living together downtown right now, so we were walking around and all the streets were closed off and there were so many nice cars driving by.
How are you and Ryan getting along?
JE: We're good friends. We've had a couple of camps together before, and we're having a lot of quality time together right now. (Laughs) He's mature beyond his years, I'd say. He's driven to have a good first pro year. I think it's good that we're together. We can compete with each other in the gym and on the ice. Hopefully, we're teammates for a good amount of time. Ryan and I both went to college, so you have many more talking points and similarities in terms of the things we went through. I think that helps our friendship. We're pretty close. We're living right by the Bell Centre, so there's always a lot to do.
You got back in the gym in early May. What's on tap training-wise in the coming months?
JE: The big emphasis for me is just getting stronger. Brossard is the best place to do it under the guidance of the strength and conditioning coaches here. It's good to hang out with some of the younger guys that I'm teammates with and that I'll be teammates with soon. Back in Toronto, I'm working with Bryan Marshall. He works with the Vancouver Canucks. I'll be there for most of the summer. The first few weeks I was in there, we were pushing pretty hard and pushing a lot of sleds. The facility is just 10 minutes from my house. I'm training with my good buddy, Pat McCarron. He plays for the Florida Everblades (ECHL). I was pretty antsy to start working out right away after the season because it ended a little too early, so getting things going full-swing now is fun. Just getting on the ice in Montreal and being in Montreal, honestly, I'd like to be playing games in a few weeks. (Laughs)
What did you learn about yourself during your rookie season in the pros?
JE: I've got a lot more patience than I thought I did. (Laughs) I guess I went through similar things with Notre Dame where I started barely playing and I was scared I wasn't even going to be playing the next game. Not getting down on myself has been huge for me. My first two games in Laval, I played like 5 minutes each game and then I was honestly thinking that I might get scratched. If I got down on myself, I think I probably would have started getting scratched and things would've started going downhill. But, I stayed positive and then things started going a little better.
How are you going to build on such a strong year in Laval? You ranked second on the Rocket in assists (32) and points (45).
JE: You just can't be satisfied with what you did. You have to keep pushing and not take anything for granted. You can't go into the next year thinking 'Oh, I'll do the same thing, for sure'. I also can't put pressure on myself, like I've been saying my whole career now. You have to enjoy it, be driven, and keep pushing to reach new levels. I'm definitely happy with my performance, but there are things I have to do to take that next step. You want to be confident, but don't get too high and don't get too low. That's where I'm at.
With that in mind, what are your expectations for next year?
JE: I'm going to show what I have at training camp and try to impress. That's the biggest thing. If I don't make the Canadiens, I want to be that next guy to get called up and I want to be one of those guys in Laval that's the go-to guy. If something happens in Montreal and they need a forward, I'd like to be that first guy up. Overall, I want to be trusted more at both ends of the rink. By the end of the year, it started to take form. I started to do a little better defensively and started to get a little more time on the penalty kill. And then faceoffs, too. At Notre Dame, I was more of a guy to take those big draws and I want to be that guy in Laval or Montreal. That's where I've got to take those next few steps. You have to find ways to contribute, and being as well-rounded as I can will help me.