Ben Evans may not have been the natural choice as the next captain of the Niagara Falls Canucks, but head coach and owner Frank Pietrangelo has no doubt he’s the best choice.
The 19-year-old Thorold native is new to the Canucks this season after spending last year with the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he won a Buckland Cup championship.
“It wasn’t an easy choice because Ben is new to our team and we have 10 returning players,” Pietrangelo said. “As a coaching staff, we said let’s see how everything plays out at camp and see who steps forward and who is the right guy to lead the team. At the end of the day, it was unanimous he was the right guy to lead.”
Pietrangelo said Evans stood out from the pack.
“We watched him on the bench in the exhibition games and on the ice at practice and in the dressing room and you try and take everything into account,” he said. “The easier thing would have been to take one of the guys who was here, but we felt for this team, for this year, Ben was the right choice.”
Evans, who began his junior career with the Fort Erie Meteors, was thrilled to be chosen.
“It’s obviously an honour. Frank pulled me aside and told me he wanted me to be captain and ever since then I haven’t looked back,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys in the room and for him to pick me, there are no words really, it’s just an honour.”
Pietrangelo told Evans, whose older brother Jake is a former OHL and junior B player, to stay true to himself in his new role.
“He told me not to change anything I am doing and that I’m going to be the leader. I’m not going to do much different, just play hockey and try and lead and be the voice in the room if someone needs to speak up.
“The good captains I had were always very approachable. Sometimes you don’t want to go to the coach so if someone wants to talk to me before talking to the coach, I want to be there for the guys.”
Before joining Wellington and after his season in Fort Erie, Evans spent a year with the Ottawa 67’s where he collected eight goals and 22 points in 60 games as a rookie.
He enjoyed his time in Wellington but decided to come home and enrol at Brock.
“I was in Wellington last year and had a great year and met some great people, but I was ready to come home and play hockey and go to school,” he said. “I want to win a Sutherland Cup.”
Evans said winning a championship last season has only whetted his appetite for another title.
“Winning last year and playing to June, that just fires the gas to it again this year. Playing May and June hockey, it’s comparable to nothing,” he said. “I never made a playoff run like that before. You get to the second and third rounds and guys are playing through injuries and other guys are stepping up into bigger roles. Just to see it first hand and to go through that war was a good experience.”
Evans will be part of a larger leadership group. The Canucks will name three assistants for home games and three others for road games.
“It worked well last year,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s junior hockey and maybe in minor hockey you were captain but what does that mean? You go home to mom and dad. You’re not in the dressing room all the time. It’s a whole different thing.
“There are all different ways to lead. Some guys are quiet, some are loud, some lead by example. In this case here we have a large group who support each other and do things the right way.”
The Canucks open the season Friday, Sept. 14 at St. Catharines. Their home opener is Sunday, Sept. 16 versus the Falcons at 6 p.m.
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