Forward Evan Allen is one of three verbal commitments for the University of Michigan playing with the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-17 Team this season. He is coming off a stellar performance at the Vlad Dzurilla Under-18 Hockey Tournament in Slovakia last week, where he posted ten points in three games and elevate his game to new heights. Allen now has 15 goals and 15 assists in 36 games and is fifth in scoring with the Under-17 Team. That’s a dramatic turnaround from where he was in December.
Evan’s success didn’t come immediately with the NTDP, which is not something he is used to. He spent the last six years with the Detroit Honeybaked Hockey organization, which is known for producing a lot of top quality hockey players, such as fellow NTDP teammate Tyler Motte. And in those six years he was always the top scorer on his team. Last year he had 38 points in 34 league games, and when you add in international play those numbers increased to a whopping 43 goals and 58 assists in 74 games.
He scored a goal in his USHL debut, a 10-3 thrashing of Youngstown by the U.S. Under-17 Team. But then Evan went four games without a point, while posting a -4 rating. He posted a goal and assist in a late October win over Youngstown, but then went five games without a point. For someone who was used to scoring, Evan had just two goals and one assist in his first 11 USHL games and a -7 rating, one of the worst on the team.
“When I made the transition to the USHL from just midget hockey, the first half was actually really a struggle for me,” he said. “In the USHL the pace was way faster and quicker transition.”
Just before entering winter break, Evan broke his five game scoreless streak by doing something he hadn’t done all season—posting points in back-to-back games in a pair of wins against Cedar Rapids. Everything was starting to click.
“Early december was when I really started to feel like I was in the game and was feeling good on the ice,” he said. ”Also the points started to come, which is always a plus.”
“Through all of the hard work and training it became easier to me and I started to look at the game different. I realized I needed to start having fun with it!”
The hard work and fun would pay off at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, a big holiday tournament similar to the World Junior Championship that features a lot of the top junior talent from the U.S., Canada, Russia, and Sweden among others. Allen had a breakout performance at the event with six goals and one assist. His goal total was the second most in the tournament.
“The (World Under-17 Hockey Challenge) was when I really came out and knew that our team was really being watched and needed to perform my best,” Evan said. “I just felt that when I want to be, I can be the best player on the ice. That’s what I tried to be and it ended in great success for me.”
The U.S. took home the silver medal at the event and Evan also took home a new found confidence.
The NTDP returned to USHL action January 13 at Youngstown, where Allen didn’t have a point. But he then went on a three game point streak and recorded two goals, three assists, and a +2 rating. His five points in those three games equaled the total of his first 14 games. And more proof of his confidence growing—during the first half of the season he was averaging 2.07 shots on goal per game. Since the New Year, he’s now averaging just over double that at 4.16 shots per game in the USHL.
Evan’s game continues to evolve as the season progresses and, as I previously mentioned, he hit a new high last week in Slovakia when he netted four goals and six assists in three games to help Team USA captured the Vlad Dzurilla title.
“For me playing on an Olympic rink is an advantage because I can use my speed and quickness with the width of the rink. Also, over there knowing we were playing against older guys was going to be a challenge and a battle,” he said. “Ever since the (World Under-17 Hockey Challenge) my game has elavated dramatically and in Slovakia it went to a new level, finishing the tournament with ten points. It was a great accomplishment for me. I have been playing with a lot of confidence, which helps, and the tournament over there was a huge blast for me and the guys! Overall, it was a tremendous opportunity to represent the United States on the international stage.
“Looking forward now onto the USHL and getting better everyday here in Ann Arbor, preparing for college!”
On the experience of playing in Slovakia… It was an awesome experience and a great bonding team experience for our team. Going overseas is always a great time, similar to Russia earlier in the year we went there with the focus to have fun but most of all play hockey!
Self-evaluation of his game… My main and very strong part of my game is my offensive zone play. Control of the puck, and most of all, my shot. I have been told many times I have one of the hardest shots and quickest shots people have seen at my age. I use that to my advantage often! And my speed. I am working very hard on my defensive zone and getting better at it everyday.
On who he tries to model his game after… I’ve always tried to model my game after Ryan Kesler just because I know how hard he works everyday, day in and day out, which is what I try to do!
On choosing to attend Michigan… The University of Michigan was always my place to go to! I did indeed talk to other colleges to open my eyes around but Michigan was always my #1 place to go! I visited around March (of last year) and talked to Red. He said he would love to have me play here and he said think about it for a few days. I called him and said Michigan is the place I want to play. I was really excited!
On if he’ll be coming in 2013 or 2014… What I really want to do is go in 2013, which is what I heard, and that’s what I’m working for and planning.
On playing with future Michigan teammates Tyler Motte and J.T. Compher at the NTDP… I do love playing with Motte and J.T. They’re both great guys! And also here at the NTDP both the U17 and U18 teams are always together around school and at the rink, so I’ve gotten to know (Michigan commits Connor) Carrick, (Jared) Rutledge, and (Jacob) Trouba very well, so it will be a great time!
On being told by his old Honeybaked coach that Evan “doesn’t say a real lot” but now seeing that he has sent out over 13,400 tweets on Twitter… Since last year I could say that I am way more talkative now that I know and live with the guys on my team and know them a lot more! Twitter is one of the ways I communicate with all my friends on my team and outside of my team. And it’s just a fun social site to get to know other people and I like followers! (You can follow him here)
Evan’s goals from the Vlad Dzurilla Tournament