MONTREAL - After being named team captain in September, Jake Evans was committed to leading the Fighting Irish by example during his senior campaign.
So far, so good for the 21-year-old centerman, who has been one of the most productive players in NCAA college hockey over the course of the first seven weeks of the season.
Through 14 games, Evans leads the nation with 17 assists and sits tied for second with 22 points and a plus-11 differential. He also leads the country with 208 faceoff wins, 15 even-strength points and four games with at least three points.
In short, the seventh-round pick of the Canadiens - 207th overall - back in 2014, has every reason to feel good about his game, and he attributes his success to his positive mindset.
"I think the biggest thing is I'm not putting any added pressure on myself. There's obviously pressure to perform well and help lead this team, but if I have a bad period or I don't have a good game, I'm trying to move on from that and play better the next game or the next shift or the next period," said Evans, whose 1.57 points-per-game average stands fifth nationwide. "I think that's what I've definitely been focusing on this year."
No doubt the expectations on Evans to deliver on a regular basis entering the year were higher than ever before coming off a career-high 42-point season, but that suited the Toronto native just fine. He was eager to assume more responsibility in South Bend and build off key lessons learned from former Fighting Irish captains Steven Fogarty and Cal Petersen.
"It makes you push yourself to set goals and push yourself to areas you didn't think you could do or areas you weren't comfortable with, but it can also make you a better player and a better person. That's what I'm trying to do," said Evans. "With my new role on this team, I really can't get down on myself. I've got to lead this team. I've got to lead on the bench and keep my team going. When tough times are happening, I've got to be that positive guy and keep the team up. On the ice, it's about creating more offense and I definitely want to help."
And, the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish are reaping the benefits of Evans' remarkable start as they head into a weekend series against the sixth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers riding a seven-game winning streak.
"We're growing to be a good team and we're just clicking," said Evans, on Notre Dame's current run. "We've got some freshmen that are playing well and a lot of the older guys are pitching in. Then, we've got some guys who didn't have big roles last year who are jumping into bigger roles and embracing them. We're just enjoying our time together and that's really helping us."
While his focus right now is squarely on helping the Fighting Irish return to the Frozen Four again this year after coming up short against Denver in the semifinals last spring, the prospect of turning pro is definitely on Evans' mind.
"I'm definitely thinking about next year. I want to be ready for it. I definitely use it as motivation to be prepared for that next jump," said Evans, who will graduate with a business degree in 2018. "Just thinking about it motivates me to work harder and get stronger. I just want to push and strive to get to that next level."