Player: Croix Evingson
Height: 6’5” Weight: 209 lbs.
Team: Shreveport Mudbugs(NAHL)
Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: Not ranked
What I Like
Lots of shots
Evingson’s 12-40-52 scoring line in 59 games this season, which led all defensemen in the NAHL, was no fluke. He generated 166 shots on goal, which was second among defensemen in the NAHL. He does a nice job of handling the puck and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, which leads to a lot of offense.
This is pretty self-explanatory, but you can’t teach 6’5”. Evingson’s strength and big wing span are huge assets on both ends of the ice. He’s not going to lose many physical one-on-one battles, and plays with a bit of meanness to his game. It’s incredibly rare to find a defenseman with his size capable of playing an offensive role.
Seal of approval
I normally don’t place a ton of weight on where a player is headed to college, but Evingson is committed to UMass Lowell, who have a tremendous record of developing defensemen in recent years. Christian Folin, Chad Ruhwedel, and Michael Kapla have all made it to the NHL despite coming to Lowell as unheralded free agents. The fact that the River Hawks see something in Evingson is worth noting.
What I Don’t Like
Unproven at higher levels
Evingson is a ‘97-born player in his final year of draft eligibility and still playing Tier II junior hockey. He had a 16-game stint in the USHL last year where he didn’t produce much, though also wasn’t getting a ton of opportunities to be successful.
It’s a marathon not a spring to the NHL, so just because Evingson is a bit behind his peers now doesn’t mean he can’t continue to develop and eventually surpass them. It should maybe even be expected considering it takes bigger players longer to develop. And that’s not necessarily something that scares NHL teams away. NAHL ‘96 forward Todd Burgess was picked 103rd overall last year by Ottawa. But it is fair to point out that Evingson has a lot more developing to do than many other prospects available in this Draft.
As you might expect from a 6’5” defenseman, Evingson’s footwork and skating still needs work. That lack of speed can sometimes get him caught in awkward positions and force him to take penalties. Evingson finished with 125 penalty minutes in 61 games. That’s a little inflated by three misconduct penalties—he didn’t have any fights, but did get one “continuing altercation” misconduct—but even factoring those out, there are too many penalties of the tripping/holding/kneeing variety.
It’s possible to spin some of that aggressiveness and physicality into a positive, but he’ll need to develop in terms of skating and positioning so he’s not spending so much time in the box.
Shreveport, Louisiana isn’t exactly a traditional stop on the scouting trail, but the NAHL does a tremendous job of making sure their top players get seen, and NHL teams will travel anywhere there is potential talent. I doubt Evingson is on the list of all 30 NHL teams, but I could certainly see him being on a few with teams that have done their homework, or at least one. If he gets picked, it’s probably in the later rounds, but in a weak draft, I would consider taking him as early as the fourth or fifth round. He just screams the type of player that teams will be in a bidding war over as an undrafted free agent in a few years if he isn’t picked.
A 6’5” late-bloomer already passed over in the Draft with offensive upside playing junior hockey in the middle of nowhere is the exact same description one could have used for Colton Parayko when St. Louis drafted him in 2012. That’s an incredibly lofty comparison and more of a best-case scenario than a prediction. But the potential is there. A safer comparison might be Daniel Brickley, who put up big shot totals and numbers in the NAHL’s South Division three seasons ago, and is now a top NHL free agent target that skated with Team USA’s World Championships team this spring. Evingson will go to UMass Lowell where he will have up to four years to develop and try to reach that big potential. It may be a slow transition as he adjusts to the speed of the college game, but once he gets comfortable, he has the talent to do special things.