Playing in front of a crowd of approximately 3,000 fans for the first time at the Canada Winter Games can be a stressful experience. ForU16 AAA Whitby Wildcats forward Evan Elliott, a focus on success dissipated any discomfort.
“It was a little nerve-racking,” Elliott said about the size of the crowd. “But as soon as we kind of got into it, nerves kind of settled down. And at that point, you know what you're supposed to do, and you just got to execute.”
It is safe to say that the Canada Winter Games was the first taste of a pressure-filled year for the 15-year-old. Not only was he seeking playoff success with the Wildcats, but there was also the weight of the looming OHL draft in April that determine Elliott’s next steps.
His mentality while representing team Ontario was “to work hard and enjoy the experience,” which he maintains as his approach heading into the OMHA playdowns.
“I like to go by just controlling things I can control and giving my best every shift every game and having fun,” claimed Elliott. “For big games, I do get really nervous. And it does get to me sometimes. But I try to do my best to just control what I can control and have fun.”
Wildcats coach Jim Kellachan noted he has witnessed a shift in the athlete’s mentality over time.
As his coach for the last two seasons, he feels Elliott’s prioritization of practice played an essential role in being chosen to represent his home province this February.
“Evan has come to understand that the work you put into practice translates into your performance during games,” said Kellachan. “I think that is what helped him get selected to Team Ontario and represent them in a big way.”
The Whitby Wildcats picked up where they left off after Tuesday's Wild Card victory, defeating the Southern Tier Admirals in their first 2023 #OHLCup contest.— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) March 29, 2023
RECAP : https://t.co/cL4ZiDNvdl pic.twitter.com/dIRwOQxXth
Elliott’s passion for hockey emerged around the age of three when he would skate with his father, Adrian, on a frozen pond in their community.
The youngster does not believe his father, who also played hockey growing up, possessed the same level of determination for success while competing. Adrian, however, does not allow Elliott’s hard work to go unnoticed.
“I would describe his work ethic as hard,” said Adrian. “He’s always up for the competition, loves to compete and battle. And I find that he’s playing his best game when he’s doing that.”
In 35 games with the Wildcats, Elliott managed scored 19 goals with 22 assists. While he found inspiration in Evgeni Malkin’s 71 for his jersey number, he models his style of play on Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman.
“I use my speed and I work really hard on the forecheck, backcheck, and in corners, and battles to win the puck and create offence,” Elliott says.
Kellachan shared similar sentiments about Elliott’s play and adds how satisfying it’s been to watch his player’s success.
“His attributes as a player are speed, puck control, listening to direction and his ability to flourish in situational aspects of the game,” Kellachan said. “In the end Evan has been a big part of the success of this team over the two years, and as a coach it’s been a pleasure to know him and grow with him on and off the ice.”
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Shaelyn Winters is a student in the Sport Journalism post-grad program at Centennial College. Follow her on Twitter @shaelynwinters