The Alaska All-Stars 12U team needed help on defense.
Croix Evingson made the move and never looked back.
Evingson found a home on the blue line, where he has since developed to the point of becoming the North American Hockey League’s top-scoring defenseman with the Shreveport Mudbugs, as well as a Division I hockey recruit with a commitment to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Although he played center in his early youth and travel hockey days, Evingson thinks his skill set was a good fit for the change that, at the time, was probably made more to meet his team’s needs than to boost his hockey development.
“They needed some help back there and I ended up sticking back there,” Evingson said. “I kind of knew early. One of my strengths has always been good vision for the ice. Being a defenseman, you’re kind of the pulse of the team. You get to control more of the play."
“I honestly enjoyed it a lot more than playing forward. I had the puck a lot more and I loved it.”
Evingson is doing much more with the puck this season after a tough first year on the junior level.
The 19-year-old from Anchorage, who also spent a few of his formative years closer to his father’s original home while living in Chisago Lakes, Minnesota, played in both the NAHL and the United States Hockey League in 2015-16.
Evingson managed just four points in 38 games while the entire offense struggled with the last-place Kenai River Brown Bears, who were the second-lowest scoring team in the entire NAHL. He had only one point in 16 games in a lesser role with the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
When he was released by the Steel prior to this season, Evingson landed with Shreveport where he immediately got the feeling that better things were ahead from both a personal and team standpoint.
“I knew when I was coming here that I had a chance and that I had a good opportunity to take on a bigger role and be more offensive and be a go-to guy,” said Evingson, a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder, who is just growing into his frame after a late growth spurt. “I came in in real good shape and I knew I had an opportunity to make a statement."
“That was obviously something I wanted and I feel like I took advantage of it.”
Evingson’s impact was immediate on a Mudbugs team that is 28-15-2-2 and sitting in second place in the South Division. He was NAHL Defenseman of the Month for September, including the season-opening NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota, which quickly got things moving toward his commitment to UMass-Lowell in December.
He has not slowed down.
Evingson is second on the team in points behind 31-goal scorer Frankie Melton. He has a team-high 33 assists among his 42 points in 46 games and, as quarterback of the unit, is second only to Melton in power-play assists (11) and points (16).
“We rely heavily on him in all situations,” Shreveport coach Karlis Zirnis said, according to a story on the team website. “His combination of size and puck-moving ability makes him a great all-around defenseman.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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