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Julien on Evans: 'I have a lot of confidence in him'

Following the departure of Nate Thompson, Jake Evans has a prime opportunity to prove his worth with the Canadiens

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - One week after being assigned to the AHL's Laval Rocket, Jake Evans was back with the big club on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old forward took part in the Canadiens' optional morning skate ahead of the matchup against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre.

Following the departure of Nate Thompson at the trade deadline, Evans will center the fourth line versus Travis Green's squad.

"It's an exciting time for me. It's an opportunity to prove myself and to prove to everyone that I can play in this League," said Evans, who made his NHL debut earlier this month, playing six games and scoring the first goal of his NHL career on February 10 against Arizona. "For me, it's about playing simple and hard."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Un premier but dans la LNH pour Jake Evans!Jake Evans scores his first NHL goal!#GoHabsGo

Evans has been doing just that all year long with Laval, registering a team-leading 38 points (14g, 34a) in 51 games.

During his most recent AHL stint, he posted four points (2g, 2a) in three games, including back-to-back multi-point efforts against the Manitoba Moose.

His primary objective right now with Montreal, though, is to demonstrate a measure of consistency in his game.

"I think consistency is a huge thing for any hockey player, especially for a guy in my situation," insisted Evans. "I can't be taking nights off or taking shifts off. I've got to go out there and be ready to go every shift, every minute."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: On se pr��pare pour les Canucks.Getting set for the Canucks.#GoHabsGo

The former seventh-round selection believes he's more than capable of doing the work required up the middle.

It's his natural position, so he's looking forward to testing his mettle at the NHL level.

Evans previously played one game at center for the Canadiens, pivoting the fourth line against the Dallas Stars on February 15 when Thompson was sidelined with the flu.

He played right-wing for the other five contests.

"I like both positions. They're obviously different. They have different responsibilities. But I've loved playing center my whole hockey career," mentioned Evans. "The past few games of playing wing have been a good challenge and been fun."

He firmly believes his hockey IQ will serve him well going forward with Claude Julien's club.

Evans prides himself on using his mind to effectively complement his natural talent.

"Ever since I was younger, I like to think that I was a pretty smart player, knowing when to make those more aggressive plays and knowing when to make those simpler plays," explained Evans. "That's going to be crucial to feel good in this League and prove myself."

Video: Pregame vs. VAN: Jake Evans

The Canadiens' prospect will also be tasked with penalty-killing duty against a Canucks lineup boasting plenty of offensive weapons.

That particular responsibility has him especially pumped up.

"For me personally, I love PK. I love to bring some energy to the team. When you go against those skilled players, you want to take away their speed, obviously, and you want to take away their time," said Evans. "I think for PK, a big thing is that you can take away a lot of momentum from them and then bring momentum for your team, so it's an exciting challenge."

'When he was here, I thought he played well'

The Canadiens' bench boss genuinely appreciates what Evans brings to the table.

He even likened his style to that of another top youngster on the roster.

"When he was here, I thought he played well. He's a smart player, a little bit like [Nick] Suzuki. They continue to play well because they're smart players. I think Jake Evans is in that same category, a smart player who figures things out," praised Julien. "We used him in different situations. Even one time he was on the power play, and he killed some penalties for us, too. He gets to showcase himself from here on in and show us that he's capable of playing consistent at this level."

Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference vs. VAN

Julien is adamant that time spent in Laval has served the second-year pro well.

With 118 games of AHL experience under his belt, Evans appears poised to make some noise at the next level.

"He spent a season-and-a-half in Laval and it shows that he really improved. The experience he got there paid dividends during his stay here," added Julien. "I have a lot of confidence in him. Even when Nate Thompson was here, we saw Jake kill penalties. He did good work. I look more at the potential and the positive associated with a player than the negative."

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