It’s been a big year for Ryker Evans. The 22-year-old made his NHL debut in December and now has 24 games under his belt. The speedy skater got on the scoresheet four games in and has tallied seven total assists to date, but it wasn’t until Friday’s game in Arizona that the defender’s solid play was rewarded with a goal.

So how did that come to be?

As part of our Playing With Ease series presented by GEICO, let’s dig in.

The first thing the Kraken did was set up a sustained attack. Jared McCann carried the puck into the zone. He can’t get a shot off, but has support of his linemates, Jaden Schwartz and Andre Burakovsky. As play shifted to a board battle below the goal line, everyone follows their routes to cover the possible outlets for the puck.

01-Entry Battle

As the puck pops loose, Lawson Crouse (ARI 67) is in great position to recover it, but Burakovsky also is tracking the play and connects with where he needs to get to in order to gain possession as well.

02-Loose Puck

But instead of getting his stick there in time, Crouse’s skate is what connects with the puck and that changes its path (and possession!) placing it right where Burakovsky was headed. It’s also worth mentioning that the low puck battle has pulled almost every Coyotes skater low in the zone, giving the Swedish forward all the space in the world.

04-95 to Slot

Burakovsky takes the shot. Schwartz has set a perfect screen net front, and Evans and Jamie Oleksiak are in support of any needed retrieval if the puck doesn’t go in the net or to prevent a rush should Arizona gain possession.

05-95 Shot

The shot rings off the crossbar, and with the Coyotes still jumbled close together near the goal line, Evans has a straight line to gain possession.

06-Ryker Retrieval

Now Evans has the puck. The defense is starting to recover but now this becomes about the Coyotes goaltender.

Karel Vejmelka has already had to respond to two quick threats (McCann and Burakovsky) coming from two different locations. Now the puck is to his right. He’s going to try to get set to defend a possible shot by Evans from the flank.

07-Evans on Flank

But play carries Evans lower, he doesn’t like the shooting lane he has so he elects to pass to Schwartz below the goal line. It’s suddenly become a lot more difficult for Vejmelka to track the puck.

08-Pass to Schwartz

The goaltender can’t really see it, and Travis Dermott (ARI 33) elects not to follow Schwartz behind the net. This is smart because it doesn’t take him out of defensive coverage, but it also means the Kraken forward isn’t pressured as he scans play in front of him and decides what his next move will be.

09-Behind the Net

Schwartz moves play to the right. Vejmelka has to leave one post and shift laterally to try to cover play on the opposite side. He has to do this quickly but not with too much force that it takes him out of position. Not a goaltender’s favorite thing to do.

Meanwhile, the Arizona defense is still collapsed low…all focused on the puck carrier and not the four other Kraken hanging out behind them.

10-Lateral shift 1

Schwartz evaluates his options. He could pass to Burakovsky in the slot, but there’s some traffic between the two players. He elects to pass to McCann and all six sets of Arizona eyes turn to follow the puck.

11-to McCann

Everyone knows McCann can score so the Coyotes anticipate a shot. Crouse even goes into a stance to block a shot. But the Kraken forward sees Evans all alone on the other side of the ice.


Now Vejmelka, who just had to shift to his left, has to go back to his right – and he has to do it really quickly because the puck is already on Evan’s stick.

13-Lateral Challenge Two

The rookie takes his shot as the goaltender dives to try to make a save.

14-Reverse Angle

The ask is too much and Vejmelka can no longer move in control. Desperation has him lose his stick and just try to somehow stop the puck with a solid read on where it’s coming from and how it’s coming off Evans’ stick.


The speed of play and the movement of the puck around the ice has taken away Vejmelka’s ability to defend the shot and the defender has a clear shooting lane that he makes the most of.


And just like that, Ryker Evans scores his very first NHL goal. That’s a great feeling.

Happy Ryker

Now let’s watch it all come together at game speed.

SEA@ARI: Evans scores goal against Karel Vejmelka

The Kraken challenged Arizona with multiple scoring chances and then executed cycle play with speed to keep the defense and goaltender from getting comfortable in their coverage to set up Evans’ tally. Congrats, Ryker – there’s likely more to come!