John Evans couldn’t wait to be a part of the Dubuque Fighting Saints’ post-holiday resurgence.
After completing his mandatory quarantine period because of COVID-19 protocols, the 5-foot-9, 134-pound forward from South Surrey, British Columbia, officially joined the team on Monday. He will be eligible to play this weekend, when the Saints visit Youngstown for a two-game series.
“We have a lot of skilled forwards up front and that’s the style I play, so I’m really excited to get to know my teammates even more and help this team win hockey games,” said Evans, an 18-year-old University of New Hampshire recruit. “I like to make plays and help my teammates have success. Hopefully, I can contribute as soon as this weekend.”
Evans contributed 22 goals and 50 points in 57 games for the West Kelowna Warriors as a British Columbia Hockey League rookie last season. The Muskegon Lumberjacks previously selected him in both the 2018 Futures Draft and the 2020 Entry Draft.
Evans became the second player to be added to the Saints’ roster in two weeks, joining 20-year-old Andrei Buyalsky.
“When we were looking at adding players, we wanted guys with specific skills we didn’t have,” Saints general manager Kalle Larsson said. “With Andrei, it was an element of speed. With John, he’s a guy who can make plays. That’s something we were lacking, even though we’ve gotten better at it lately.
“John’s a playmaker who can also finish. He’s a guy who can play top-six (forward) minutes, or he could be a contributor if we decide to spread out the scoring to three lines.”
After a brief adjustment period last season, Evans’ point production took off last season. He tallied just five goals and 13 points in the first 29 games before posting 17 goals and 37 points in the final 28 games.
“It was just a matter of getting more comfortable with the league,” Evans said. “Fortunately, my coaches in West Kelowna gave me a lot of opportunities, and I took advantage of it. That gave me a lot of confidence and was the reason why I had such a big second half.”
Larsson praised West Kelowna for its professionalism in allowing Evans to come to the USHL. Evans expected to play in the BCHL this season, but the league has yet to take the ice because of coronavirus concerns.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the whole West Kelowna organization — from the owner to the coaches to my teammates to the staff,” Evans said. “They were super, super, super nice and very accommodating of my situation. They understood that I wanted to play so I could be ready for UNH in the fall. I can’t thank them enough for the way they handled everything.”