MONTREAL - Jake Evans wasn't the happiest of campers, so to speak, during his last visit to Montreal. He had a very good reason why, though.
After undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia in early May, the 22-year-old centerman was simply unable to fully participate in Development Camp activities with the rest of the group.
Being forced to watch from the stands during practices and scrimmages was especially tough to swallow.
"It definitely sucked not being able to skate with some of the new guys coming in. You're just held back," said Evans, who was skating solo at the time under the watchful eye of the Canadiens' training staff. "It was tough not being able to show what you've got and show how far you've come since the last time management saw you."
Fast forward seven weeks later and Evans is feeling just fine - and it won't be long before the University of Notre Dame grad is strutting his stuff in front of the Habs' brass at the upcoming 2018 NHL Rookie Showdown at Place Bell in Laval in early September.
"Everything's been positive. I'll be full-go like everyone else. It'll be nice," confirmed Evans, who resumed his regular training routine approximately four weeks ago with renowned strength and conditioning coach, Matt Nichol, in Toronto. "I definitely miss that competitive side of hockey. I want to get back at it. It'll be nice playing in Laval with the home crowd watching."
His last real taste of competitive hockey came back in early April when the Fighting Irish were competing in the NCAA Frozen Four, so Evans' hunger to suit up again is understandable, of course.
Officially pain-free, Evans says going under the knife has had a dramatic effect on his skating ability.
"It's easier to take strides and easier to push now," explained the Canadiens' seventh-round pick - 207th overall - back in 2014. "Skating is a lot easier."
Right now, Evans is hitting the ice three-to-four times per weeks alongside the likes of NHL veterans Tyler Seguin, Michael Del Zotto, Tom Wilson and Michael Cammalleri at St. Michael's College School Arena.
It's a familiar spot to Evans, who went to high school there.
"It's been a big help skating with those guys because they do everything fast. You've got to be fast making plays, so it forces you to ramp up your speed and make quick decisions," explained Evans. "That's something I've been trying to focus on. I'd like to think I'm fitting in with them and challenging them, too. I think that will help me out for camp."
In the gym, Evans has focused his efforts on strengthening his core muscles, which isn't at all surprising given the nature of his recent injury.
"Off the ice, the big thing I've been trying to catch up on is getting my strength back," mentioned Evans. "There was a big emphasis on core strength. I had to make sure I felt 100 percent. With the injury gone, I could focus on treating my body so I don't have any issues this year."
As for his expectations for his first pro season, Evans has high hopes. But, he's perfectly comfortable with taking things one step at a time.
"I want to go in with a mindset of making the Canadiens, but I also need to go in open-minded and ready to learn from guys who've been there for a long time - how they handle their bodies, how they act," concluded Evans. "I also want to go in with confidence. Hopefully I can try and crack the lineup, but I won't get down on myself if things don't work out. Wherever I end up, it'll be exciting to play in the Montreal system and start playing pro hockey."