(This is a June 20th, 2023 update of a December 10th, 2022 “Seattle Kraken of the Future” Feature)
If forward Shane Wright is considered the Seattle Kraken’s top prospect, then defenseman Ryker Evans isn’t too far behind.
Evans was selected as a 19-year-old by Seattle Kraken General Manager Ron Francis and his scouts in the 2nd-round, 35th overall, at the 2021 NHL Draft. A year later, after four seasons of major junior hockey with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, Evans signed his three-year, entry-level deal with the Kraken on April 22nd, 2022.
In his first professional season in the American Hockey League with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, Evans has played a big part in getting the team to the 2023 Calder Cup Final.
“I think his ice vision and his playmaking has improved since I saw him in junior last year,” Firebirds Director of Hockey Operations Troy Bodie told us Tuesday on the eve of the Calder Cup Final Game-7. “Throughout this season he sees the ice well, he moves so well, and he gives himself good opportunities. He’s smart enough not to over-complicate anything and makes the plays that are there.”
While Evans is an improved and proficient skater, item one for scouts, he’s also exceptional at making the first pass and plenty of others, which is always item number-two for what’s looked at in a defenseman.
He finished this past regular season with six goals and 38 assists in 71 AHL games.
Undaunted by not being selected at the NHL Draft as an 18-year-old in 2020, Evans was a point-a-game player, actually 28 points in 24, the following Covid-shortened WHL season.
After being chosen by the Seattle Kraken, he then posted 61 points in 63 games in his fourth and final year of major juniors. That was third on the team behind two forwards, one of them being some guy named Connor Bedard, the lock 1st-overall pick at next week’s NHL Draft. Bedard finished this past season with 143 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’, and he’s only gotten better as the stakes have gotten higher.
Evans has been a point-a-game player (24 in 25) in the playoffs.
Pros and Cons
Temper, temper. Did Evans have a bit of a discipline problem or was he just feisty? He racked up — using that term reluctantly considering how much the game has changed when ‘racked up’ used to mean PIMs in the triple digits — 96 penalty minutes in his final season of junior. He had 74 PIM in 71 pro’ games this past season.
Not unusual considering the American League game and his minutes. In comparison, big Jamie Oleksiak led the Seattle Kraken D-corps with 72 penalty minutes last season.
It seems Evans has shown more discipline in general. The lefty isn’t massive, he’s 5-11 and 190-pounds, but he is sturdy enough and he is growing into his body.
“He’s a hard working kid, he’s got elite skating ability, smart player, not the biggest guy, but decent size and he plays with grit,” Bodie said. “A lot to like about him.”
Evans entry-level deal pays him $925,000 per season if he makes the big show and $90,000 per season while playing in the AHL. There’s a very good chance he’ll be cashing the larger checks in season number-two, at least while getting a good look, if not for longer.
Evans will get his third taste of Seattle Kraken camps this fall. It’ll be fun to see just how far this puck mover has progressed.