Date:  Source: Ontario Junior A Hockey League

MONTREAL – Former St. Michael’s Buzzer Jake Evans shared a special embrace with his parents, Wayne and Marilyn, after coming up short in the Frozen Four's national championship game earlier this month.

Mr. and Mrs. Evans weren't just consoling their son following a heartbreaking loss, though, they were also celebrating his four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame and looking ahead to the next step in his hockey career.

That, of course, will come as a member of the Canadiens organization after the 21-year-old centerman signed a two-year, entry-level contract last week that officially begins next season.

"It was a very special moment with them because we kind of knew that once the Frozen Four game was done, it was time for that next journey with Montreal," said Evans, who scored 13 goals and led the Fighting Irish with a career-high 33 assists and 46 points in 40 games during the 2017-18 campaign, securing Big Ten regular season and Big Ten tournament titles along the way. "It was pretty emotional because they did so much for me and I just think of how far we've all come together. We were all excited, but definitely emotional."

The Fighting Irish captain actually put pen to paper in Indiana with his roommates - fellow seniors and Notre Dame teammates Dawson Cook and Luke Ripley - looking on. It was a "surreal moment" for Evans, who is eager to move on up from the NCAA ranks to the pros following a hard-fought 2-1 defeat to the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, MN.

"I think it's definitely time to make that jump. These last four years have been great, but it's just time," affirmed the Toronto native, who registered 41 goals and 138 points in 158 games with Notre Dame, missing just one game over the last four seasons. "There's something bigger out there and something that could be attainable. I'm definitely ready for that next step."

When the soon-to-be graduate wraps up his final three classes to earn his management consulting degree, he'll return home to train under the watchful eye of renowned strength and conditioning coach Matt Nichol, where he'll also have a chance to skate alongside some veteran NHLers.

"I have to be locked in the whole summer, getting stronger, eating healthy, and just being focused and prepared to be ready for training camp," explained Evans, who has spent the last five summers with Nichol's training group. "We also get a chance to skate with guys like [Tyler] Seguin, [Mike] Cammalleri and [Wayne] Simmonds. I'm definitely going to be looking at their approach to practice and drills, and I'll want to build some more confidence knowing I can skate with guys at that skill level."

He plans on competing for a roster spot with the big club in the fall, knowing full well that he still has plenty to learn in the months and years to come in order to enjoy a long and productive pro career.

"When I get to Montreal, I think the big thing for me is to be a sponge and soak a lot of things up, seeing how those successful guys operate and what they're doing well. I'll have to learn from them," mentioned Evans, who was among the NCAA's top faceoff men this season, ranking second in the country by winning 550 draws. "But I have to have confidence in my game once I get there and just be determined to make the squad." 

Evans certainly isn't lacking in the determination department. Remember that the former Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) standout was a seventh-round pick of the Canadiens - 207th overall - in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, making him the fourth-to-last selection at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia that June. Evans tallied 111 points during two-plus seasons with the St. Michael's in the OJHL.

From that point on, he was committed to improving his game with the Fighting Irish and eventually setting his detractors straight with respect to his pro potential.

"If you get drafted that late - or even just lower than you expect - you just use it for extra motivation. At first, I just thought a lot of teams didn't want me and they weren't excited abut me, but then I realized that I've got one team that wants me and that's all that matters. I wanted to prove all those other teams wrong. It's what I've been trying to set out to do," said Evans, who turned plenty of heads this year, and even caught the attention of Hockey Canada's top brass to earn a spot on Team Canada for the Spengler Cup last December. "I don't think draft position really matters. There's a long road after the draft, for sure."

So far, though, Evans has navigated that road to perfection. Now, if he could only convince his father to jump on the Habs bandwagon, he'd be able to scratch another item off his already lengthy to-do list.

"I just have to get my dad to become a Habs fan, but I'm sure he will be," cracked Evans. "Growing up, my best friend's dad was a huge Habs fan and my dad would just give it to him every time the Leafs won. I've got a couple of texts saying stuff about karma. I think my dad's been hearing it a bit now that he has to be a Habs fan."

– courtesy Montreal Canadiens