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Under the Microscope | NHL Prospect of April: Evan Nause

 

Evan Nause has taken the road less travelled to accomplish his dreams in the game of hockey.

Nause’s introduction to the game was inspiring. The passion to play and learn all of the game’s subtle nuances became the driving force behind his journey.

“My earliest recollection of playing the game was playing basement hockey with my dad and brother in White Rock, British Columbia,” Nause fondly remembered. “My dad was a huge hockey fan and played competitive hockey until high school while my brother started to play the game at a very young age. Like most younger brothers, I looked up to him and I was just trying to follow in his footsteps.”

Fifteen years ago is when Mark and Julie Nause moved their young family all the way from British Columbia to Riverview, New Brunswick for work purposes. At that point, the Bryon Dobson Arena, the local community rink, instantly turned into a “field of dreams” for both Ryan and Evan Nause.

“It was unbelievable,” Nause said of his minor hockey days in Riverview. “I started playing when I was five. I was so jacked up in the summer that I would put on and take off my gear in the house just for fun.”

The dream to play at hockey’s highest level was firmly implanted during those experiences.

“I realized around my second year Atom or first year Pee-Wee that I was going to put everything into hockey and that I wanted to play in the NHL,” stated the Quebec Remparts blueliner. “My parents never told me that I couldn’t do it. They always told me; you’re going to make it, you just have to believe in yourself.”

For some, it may have seemed like a pipe dream. However, the highly skilled defender never let anyone derail his goal. The lessons learned in those early days of minor hockey and coming up through the ranks, playing for two different prep schools and living away from home at a very young age, have definitely served him well. The road to the QMJHL may have been long and winding for Nause, but the highly touted defenceman wouldn’t change it for the world.

Despite being drafted by the Val-d’Or Foreurs with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft, Nause initially decided to focus on taking the U.S. College route and instead chose to play his 16-year-old season for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. There, he turned in a solid rookie season and was poised for a long playoff run before the year ended due to the pandemic.

Nause’s path in the game would take on an entirely new direction in the months leading up to the 2020 QMJHL Entry Draft however. The hockey world in both the Maritimes and Quebec was shocked when the Quebec Remparts selected him with the fifth overall pick last June.

But the decision to come play in the QMJHL wasn’t a small one, it is one that Nause and his family took very seriously. Looking back on it today, they are incredibly pleased with how everything has turned out.

It might be cliché, but timing is everything and things happen for a reason. That timing couldn’t have been better for Nause to showcase his talents while entering the league in what some players call the most stressful year of their lives.

“I think the COVID-19 situation this season has definitely added to the stress of the draft year”, stated the blueliner. “But the most important aspect for me is to keep things in perspective and focus on what matters most. Ultimately, I can’t control [what will happen at] the NHL Draft.”

“That’s something I’ve come to terms with this season. I’m going out every night and battling for my team. That’s my motivation this year”, he added. “I’ve been going to the rink every day to try and better myself to the best of my abilities. I’m focusing on my development and trying to help my team win every night. It is a weird year, but if anything, this season has taught me to play every game like it’s my last!”

Despite his strong approach to the game, the transitional defenceman got off to a slower than expected start.

“In the summer and at the start of the year, I was definitely putting too much pressure on myself. I had to take a step back”, he admitted. “I play the game because I’m passionate about it. I love it. And at the end of the day, it has to be fun.”

Nause went on an offensive tear when the Remparts returned to action during second half of the season. Of the four goals and 18 assists the 18-year-old picked up in 32 games this season, 17 points came in the final two months of the campaign.

With such play and constant improvement, it isn’t surprising that Nause has garnered the attention of many NHL scouts.

“Evan is a good sized defenceman with great skating ability. He’s agile and possesses good mobility,” said one NHL scout. “His defensive game is improving. I thought he struggled at times early this season, but his processing [of the game], his reads and decision making are all improving.”

“He has solid puck skills, controls it well and can make plays in tight. He has a good escape game when under pressure. He also has good vision and a good feel for the game offensively” said another NHL scout. “He skates well and defends with both his skating ability and active stick. He’s a puck mover who is good in transition. He’s not a high-end offensive guy, but a constant contributor.”

A long-time student of the game, Nause understands the value of hard work, especially when it comes to accomplishing his dreams.

“I’ve been hitting the gym a lot and trying to bring a more physical presence on the ice, especially in the d-zone”, he said of his play this season. “I want to be tough to play against. I’ve also been trying to find my offensive game at the Q level and I feel like I’m taking steps every day and adding tools to my game.”

“The dream is to have a long NHL career and that’s something I’m working towards every single day”, he added. “I’m just focused on being the best person, teammate and the best version of me on the ice. I think that everything else with figure itself out.”

Nause’s rise to fame in the game has been inspiring to many. Once again, it goes to show that the road less travelled is often the most rewarding, especially given all the sacrifices made along the way.

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