Montreal Canadiens 2023-24 Season-In-Review: Jake Evans

It's time to start putting some respect on Jake Evans' name.
Montreal Canadiens Jake Evans
Montreal Canadiens Jake Evans / Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photo/GettyImages

No one benefitted more from the Sean Monahan trade than Jake Evans. Evans' role had a big boost after Monahan's departure, which led him to record five goals and 12 assists in the 25 games after the trade. Evans' play dropped off in April, as he had just three assists (all in one game), in the eight games after his 25-game stretch. The 2023-24 season may not have ended like Evans wanted, but his future with the Canadiens, and the trust from his coach, definitely took a positive turn.

Evans' value to the Canadiens doesn't come in his point totals. Instead, it comes when he's the first person over the boards for a penalty kill or when the Habs need a faceoff win. Head Coach Martin St. Louis recognized Evans as one of his best penalty killers, and Evans takes pride in those abilities.

Stu Cowan of The Montreal Gazette asked Evans what he takes the most pride in during a hockey game.

"“Honestly, faceoffs and penalty-kill. It sounds weird, but I just like penalty-killing. It’s kind of fun for me. I get a lot of enjoyment taking a slapshot down the ice and racing to the bench or winning a big faceoff. Cole (Caufield) likes scoring … I like dumping the puck out.""

Jake Evans

Evans may not like scoring, but his numbers to end the season were those of a valuable depth player. If the Canadiens will eventually be a Stanley Cup-contending team with all their young stars, they'll need a bottom-six player to log the dirty minutes. All signs point to Jake Evans being that guy for the Canadiens.

A Seventh-Round Steal

It's been a long road for Jake Evans to cement his place with the Canadiens. Evans had no real expectations going into the 2014 NHL Draft, but was taken by the Canadiens in the seventh round. He then spent four seasons at Notre Dame and finished his degree, willing and able to begin working a regular nine-to-five if hockey didn't work out.

Evans earned a three-year, $5.1 million contract after a two-year entry-level deal and a two-year league minimum salary. Evans is due for another deal after the 2024-25 season, and another season, like his 2023-24 campaign, will get him a raise. 2023-24 was Evans' first season playing all 82 games, and he was one point away from reaching his previous career high. That doesn't mean the season failed, as he did get some milestones.

Evans is 40th in points from the 2014 NHL Draft, which isn't bad considering he was the 207th overall pick, and he's played fewer seasons than most of the players in front of him. Evans has been a full-time player for four seasons, while players at the top of the class, like Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak, just completed their tenth season. Evans also reached 268 games played this season. Only 21 players selected in the first round of that draft have more than 268 games.

Evans was also the best player in the draft class from the Montreal Canadiens. First-rounder Nikita Scherbak played 37 games, while third-rounder Brett Lernout played 21. The other three players have yet to play in an NHL game.

Jake Evans' Future

Evans had the fourth-highest time on ice amongst forwards during the 2023-24 season, behind Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Juraj Slafkovsky. There's no doubt that Evans is part of the Canadiens' plans, and he has some expectations placed upon himself and his teammates.

In Journal De Montreal, Evans stated his desire to stay with the Canadiens, and his plans for his role on the penalty kill.

"“I want to be in Montreal for the long term, I like playing here, I like the direction the team is taking and I want to be part of all that. We take a lot of pride in our work while outnumbered. We have raised the standards... For next season, we hope to be in the top 10 of the best [penalty kill] units in the league.”"

Jake Evans

Evans may not jump off your screen with his skill or have the starpower to be anyone's favorite player, but make no mistake about it, if the Canadiens win a Stanley Cup with this group, Evans will play an integral role.