Other than just a few games due to injury and a three-game suspension, the Seattle Kraken have been very stable along the blueline thus far this season. Jamie Oleksiak being the common denominator for the aforementioned. Until the group gets a bit more time under its belt and the evaluation of the personnel progresses, team management has no reason to rush any prospects along.
While the status quo has been more than satisfactory to this point, just know that a solid puck moving lefty defenseman is working away diligently with the Seattle Kraken’s American Hockey League affiliate Coachella Valley Firebirds.
20-year-old Ryker Evans was selected by Seattle Kraken General Manager Ron Francis and his scouts in the 2nd-round, 35th overall at the 2021 NHL Draft. While he has the perfect name for a bull rider or an action movie hero, Evans also has the solid potential of being an NHL regular on the blueline.
When we say puck mover in his case, always a positive attribute, we should say puck passer. While he can skate well enough, item one for scouts, he’s also exceptional at making the first pass and plenty of others, which is always item two for what they look for in a defenseman.
Evans isn’t massive, he’s 5-11 and 190-pounds, but he is sturdy enough and he is growing into his body.
In his first season with the Seattle Kraken’s AHL club, Evans has one goal and ten assists in 17 games played. He’s a plus-10 if you want to use the most archaic of analytical numbers, proving in a basic sense his positive attributes on the ice.
Undaunted by not being selected at the NHL Draft as an 18-year-old in 2020, Evans was a point a game player the following Covid-shortened season, and then posted 61 points in 63 games in his fourth and final year of major juniors with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League in 2021-’22. That was third on the team behind two forwards, one of them being some guy named Connor Bedard, the lock 1st-overall pick next summer at the 2023 draft. Bedard finished last season with 100 points.
In other words, not a bad option for Evans in terms of passing targets. Did that help inflate the D-man’s numbers? His AHL experience thus far would indicate ‘probably not’, especially considering all of the Firebirds games so far have been away from their new building that opens December 18th.
Pros and Cons
Temper, temper. Does Evans have a bit of a discipline problem or is he just feisty? He racked up — using that term reluctantly considering how much the game has changed and ‘racked up’ used to mean PIMs in the triple digits — 37 penalty minutes in 24 WHL games two seasons ago and 96 more last season.
He seems to have settled down a bit that way in the AHL with an even numbered 16 in 17 games.
Evans signed a two-way, three-year entry-level deal with the Kraken this past spring that pays him $925,000 per season if he makes the big show and $90,000 per season while playing in the AHL.
Evans had a taste of NHL camps the last two falls. Barring anything calamitous, he’ll be back for another with the Seattle Kraken in 2023. It’ll be fun to see just how far this puck passer has progressed.