Evangelista NSH

Luke Evangelista is just getting started.

Concluding his first full NHL campaign sixth among all NHL rookies in points (39), goals (16) and assists (23), Evangelista bested each category from his debut season last year and recorded the third-most points of any rookie in franchise history behind Tanner Jeannot (41 in 2021-22) and Filip Forsberg (63 in 2014-15).

“I think from a personal standpoint, I had a pretty good year,” Evangelista said. “It felt kind of like a tale of two seasons. In the first half I was a little inconsistent, I didn't have as good of a start as I wanted to, or maybe I wasn't playing up to my own expectations. And I think around Christmas time, I took a bit of a step, and then came back from the All-Star break and felt like I changed a couple of components in my game. I had a couple of different focus points that were kind of new to me, and that changed a few parts of my game and really allowed me to kind of elevate, especially down the stretch.”

Making the Predators roster out of training camp, Evangelista indeed got off to a slower start than he’d hoped for, but eventually found his stride within Head Coach Andrew Brunette’s new system.

Though his point production was nearly identical from his first 40 games (7g-12a) to his last 40 (9g-11a), a deeper dive shows a young player skating with much more confidence and generating much more offensive chances.

Recording 74 shots on goal, a 51.8 shot attempt percentage and 11.07 shot attempts per 60 minutes over 13:43 of average ice time from Oct. 10 - Jan. 9, Evangelista improved to 98, 56.6, 15.95 and 14:12 in each respective category during the latter half of the season. 

During Nashville’s franchise-high 18-game point streak, No. 77 additionally recorded a career-high, four-game point streak (3g-1a, March 5-10), a span that additionally included a career-high, three-game goal streak.

Evangelista Speaks to Media at the End of the Season

“He got a lot better,” Brunette said. “I thought he had a tremendous season. I thought he came out of the gates a little slow, and it took him a little while to find his game. But I thought in the last 40 games he was outstanding.” 

“It's not always going to be a straight line,” Evangelista said. “There's going to be ups and downs. You’ve got to learn from the good and you’ve got to learn from the bad, and I think I did a pretty good job of that. And I was able to have a good impact in the second half [of the season].”

Take it from someone who’s been there and done that: being a rookie in the NHL is a difficult task - putting up the numbers Evangelista did even more so.

“He was awesome the whole year,” Predators Captain Roman Josi said. “Just like all the young guys, we wouldn't have been in the playoffs if they didn't play that well. And that was kind of the fun thing about this year. A lot of these guys played maybe 20-30 games in the NHL before, and when you play your first year, it's not easy. You’re playing 82 games, and you come in and for the first 10-15 games everything is new and it's fun. And then you get into that first season and you’re traveling, you’re playing back-to-backs and the games are hard… I felt like that was my biggest struggle in the beginning, the consistency. And those guys played so well. They're a big reason why we made the playoffs, and I thought they did awesome and got better as the year went on.”

Evangelista’s rookie campaign concluded with his first taste of Stanley Cup Playoff action, a six-game battle against the Vancouver Canucks that saw the young forward record a goal and 14 shots - including a game-high five in Game 1 - over 13:22 of average ice time.

Though he admittedly would have liked to generate much more offensively, the experience gave the 22-year-old winger plenty to build on for next year.

“Those playoff games were a great experience for me,” he said. “Obviously, I wish I could have produced more, I wish we could have won the series - it was right there. But I think in those playoff series, you’ve got to feel everything. You have to feel the highs and the lows, and we certainly did feel it all. So, [I had] my first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and hopefully learned from it and will just be better next time around.”

“I know his production didn't show, but I thought he had a good playoffs,” Brunette said. “He learned a lot and it was good for him to go through the mud a little bit. I thought he handled himself really well. He’s got a big summer ahead of him here to be ready for camp, but I thought he had a really good year and he's an exciting young player for us.”

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