Catching The Torch: Jake Evans an early nominee for Hobey Baker Award

Stats, highlights, and updates on the Montreal Canadiens prospects from the past week.

Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Habs prospects playing at the junior (OHL, WHL), collegiate (USHL, NCAA), and professional (ECHL) level.

Jake Evans has been listed as an early nominee for the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player. With the season he's having — 10 points up on the next-closest Notre Dame player and at the top of the NCAA in scoring — he will also be on the short list released in March.

The fact that he is currently leading the strongest team in the league and helping them break records (15 consecutive wins) will greatly help his case when deciding the recipient of the prestigious award. Not many experts saw the Irish first in the NCAA rankings this season with the loss of Andrew Oglevie. Evans has really stepped up to replace the production of the now Boston Bruins rookie.

The Hobey Baker Award is given to a person exhibiting strength of character, leadership qualities, and outstanding skills in all phases of the game. Still, before Johnny Gaudreau won it in 2014, not many recipients went on to have careers in the NHL. But as the NCAA became a more legitimate breeding ground for talent through the years, the recent winners (Jack Eichel 2015, Jimmy Vesey 2016, and Will Butcher 2017) have all at least found a solid spot in an organization.

It would be premature to predict Evans' future in the NHL and see him as the next Hobey Baker Award winner. They are other great candidates that may end up claiming the honour, but being selected in the early phases is still a recognition of who he is as a player, what he has accomplished, and his potential.

Now, if he does end up winning, let's hope Evans doesn't choose a route leading him away from the team that drafted him, as the previous two years’ recipients opted to do....

Prospect spotlight

Hawden Hawkey, Providence Friars, G

Hawkey was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week with his performance in back-to-back games. He allowed three goals on 53 shots, good for a 0.943 save percentage. He stood on is head on Saturday helping the Friars to a tie they probably had no business earning.

Brady Tkachuk, playing for the Boston University Terriers, tested him a few times to no avail, even getting a one-on-one chance in the second period. His shot couldn't find a hole in Hawkey's glove-side coverage.

There were a lot of breakdowns in the Friars' defence in that game and this was far from the only dangerous attempt Hawkey stopped. He made many of his 33 saves on pucks fired around the slot area.

By playing strong positionally — square to the shooter and sealing the lower net — he didn't leave much for shooters to aim at, even after they were left alone in front of the net.

Furthermore, due to Hawkey's reaction time and ability to read shooters, Providence's defence breathed a sigh of relief on multiple other occasions. The goalie adjusted quickly to changes of possessions and left the opposition stymied.

But he would likely want to revisit the play that gave the Terriers their first lead of the game. The goal didn't seem to be caused by bad tracking, even if the shot beat Hawkey from quite far out. It looked more like, instead of trying to deflect the puck to the corner, he tried to absorb it on his blocker, and failed the manoeuvre.

Rebound control was a small issue for Hawkey in that game. A few scrums happened in front of the crease due to his inability to freeze the puck. Fortunately, he was bailed out by his teammates who managed to clear the area in time.

With their recent success, the Friars have climbed into the top 10 of the NCAA rankings. The team, backstopped by Hawkey, hasn't lost in their past six games (five wins and that hard-earned tie). The Habs’ goaltending prospect has maintained a 0.950 save percentage in that stretch. While he was not called upon to steal games every time like Saturday, he has been a solid presence between the pipes.

The sixth-round selection managed four shutouts last season and should really have tied this record already. This year he already has three, but he played 52:22, not allowing any goals, on December 29th. Providence decided to give a little ice time to their backup goalies in a game they were heavily dominating. Hawkey got replaced for a few minutes and was then not eligible for a shutout.

The most consistent goalie in the organization at the start of the season, Hawkey is picking up steam trying to surpass the recent great performances of Cayden Primeau.

Expect a goalie showdown in two weeks’ time, when Primeau's Huskies play against the Friars.

Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud Huskies

Poehling was in a bit of a drought before he scored on Saturday. This seems quite normal for someone coming back from an intense stretch of games over what should have been his holiday break. In that time, his hockey schedule changed from two games a week to seven in 10 days.

Still, it felt like not being able to produce got to the young centre and he was making some uncharacteristic mistakes, including lapses in the defensive fervour we have come to expect from him.

His tendency to pass the puck when he has great occasions to get it on net was also exhibited. Watching Poehling, you can't help but think that playing at the Bell Centre will help his game, with all those fans yelling ‘Shoot!’ every time he crosses the red line. Who knows, it might be exactly what he needs.

This was only his second stretch without a point this season and, fortunately, none went longer than three games. He redirected a beautiful pass from his brother Jack to tie the game for St. Cloud State at the end of the second period.

NCAA/USHL weekly performance

Jake EvansCBig TenNotre Dame0000
Nikolas KobersteinRDWCHAAlaska-Fairbanks2011
Ryan PoehlingCNCHCSt. Cloud State2100
Casey StaumLDUSHLDubuqueInjured

NCAA/USHL season to date

Jake EvansCBig TenNotre Dame2272128
Nikolas KobersteinRDWCHAAlaska-Fairbanks2411011
Ryan PoehlingCNCHCSt. Cloud State1761117
Casey StaumLDUSHLDubuque18033

Goalies weekly performance

Hayden HawkeyNCAAProvidence1-0-11.500.9430
Cayden PrimeauNCAANortheastern2-0-03.010.8870

Goalie season performance

Hayden HawkeyNCAAProvidence15-7-22.190.9154
Cayden PrimeauNCAANortheastern10-3-32.030.9201

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