When looking at the playoff run of the Montreal Canadiens, their playing style was easily defined. They want to relentlessly attack their opponents, eventually grinding them down and scoring when the opportunity arises from the opposing team’s mistakes.
A player in this year’s NHL Draft who fits that mould is one Luke Evangelista of the London Knights. We’ve previously profiled his teammate, Antonio Stranges, but Evangelista could not be a more opposite type of player.
A true 200-foot winger, Evangelista brings high-end defensive awareness and great hockey IQ that he can translate into the offensive attack as well. The offensive upside and skill isn’t as high as some other draft-eligible cohorts, but he brings a style that NHL coaches love, making him an appealing option on draft day in October.
Birthplace: Oakville, Ontario
Date of birth: February 21, 2002
Weight: 165 lbs.
Team: London Knights (OHL)
He presents an interesting option for teams on draft day. He has a ton of potential and already does so many little things right, yet at the same time, his NHL ceiling isn’t overly high as he lacks a true standout offensive skill. His defensive play makes him a safe bet to make the jump to the NHL.
His hard-working style of play isn’t always pretty, but a player like him can easily become a useful piece on a deep team, especially come playoff time. He has the instincts to become a secondary contributor, but if Evangelista makes it as a full-time NHL player, it’ll be due to his work on the other side of the puck.
He shines every single night as a difference-maker on the defensive side of the puck. What makes this such a dominant area is that he anticipates and reads plays as they’re developing, giving him the time to cut off lanes and disrupt attacks before they form. He’s able to do this on the penalty kill and at even strength, giving himself plenty of room to turn the play out of the zone if he forces a turnover, or to be in position to receive a pass from his teammates.
He does all this at top speed as well, making him an even bigger threat to transition his stalwart defensive play into an immediate offensive attack. While normally the type of player that opts to pass first, his ability to find open space and anticipate plays happening makes him a prime target to also start the breakout and offensive attack. In the offensive zone, he is cognizant of his own limitations and may pass up a shooting chance to dish a puck on his backhand to a teammate.
He is capable of scoring goals, and for London this past year he did all that scoring at even strength, meaning there’s untapped production yet in Evangelista’s game that could see his stats rise after he’s picked in the upcoming NHL Draft.
It’s perhaps harsh to really place this as a weakness, but his ceiling isn’t overly high unless he finds another gear offensively. While he doesn’t have a poor shot by any means, he has certain flaws in his mechanics that prevent him from being able to receive passes and get shots off in one fluid motion. In some relation to that, some of his skills in terms of puck-handling are a bit slow, making them a clear second choice for Evangelista when in those situations.
While also not a poor skater, he isn’t going to be a burner on the ice, and much like his shooting flaws it comes from small mistakes in his skating patterns. Those can be fixed with some work, but it’s entirely possible that Evangelista doesn’t develop another offensive gear, and he levels out where he is in terms of potential.
Elite Prospects: #58
Future Considerations: #84
Hockey Prospect: #21
NHL Central Scouting: #39 (NA Skaters)
It’s hard to find big flaws in Evangelista’s game. There are small issues with skating and his offensive ceiling, but not big enough to make him a huge risk on draft day. In fact, he seems like a sure bet to make the NHL fairly early into his professional career given his talents and playing style.
A middle-six role is an optimistic projection. but plays a style that every NHL coach loves. He’s defensively responsible, and can easily turn mistakes into offensive chances for his team.
For the Canadiens, is using one of your second-round picks on a low-ceiling player the right bet, or do you swing for the fences on a higher-risk prospect? Looking at how the Canadiens play hockey, and their need for smart wingers in the prospect pool, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t jump at the chance to take him if he’s on the board.
It’s not the most exciting pick, adding such a prospect gives Montreal a type of winger that they’re missing in their prospect pool. With so many picks, there is nothing wrong with taking a safe bet if it’s available, and it very well might be with Luke Evangelista.