Shawn Evans’ 2018 season was unlike any of his previous seasons.
He totaled only 83 points and 49 assists – a solid season for most players, but a far drop-off from Evans’ five straight seasons of at least 103 points and 65 assists. After being traded mid-season from New England to Buffalo, the Bandits lost six of their final eight games and missed the playoffs. For the first time since 2010, Evans watched the playoffs from home.
2019 has been a different story.
Evans, now in his first full season with Buffalo – his fourth team in his 14-year career – is off to a historic start, leading the league in points (48) and assists (36) and is tied for seventh in goals (12). Oh, and his team is 5-2, good for second-best in the league.
“Thank heavens for Shawn Evans!”
Beaut of a game winner by Evy. pic.twitter.com/EgYRCAlqMl
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) January 22, 2019
And after another weekend of beautiful feeds to set up his teammates – six assists against New England and four against Rochester will do just that – Evans is on pace for over 92 helpers, well over the current single-season mark of 84 set by Rush forward Mark Matthews last year.
“I’ve been trusting the coaches’ philosophy,” Evans said about his success so far this season. “We have smart coaches (co-head coaches Rich Kilgour and John Tavares) on our bench on top of a great offense. We have a lot of great players and my job is to do whatever I can to help my team, whatever way I can.”
Evans’ assist totals so far this season look like this, in each respective week: Eight, six, seven, three, two, six and four. In week five, he eclipsed his point and assist total from the eight games he played with Buffalo last year.
The Peterborough, Ontario, native already leapfrogged Shawn Williams to get into sixth-place on the all-time assists list (727) and could surpass John Grant Jr. (778) by season’s end.
It’s a lot easier to rack up assists when there are goal scorers around you. Not that Evans didn’t have playmakers around him on his previous teams in New England and Calgary. In two seasons with the Black Wolves, he notched 103 and 118 assists, and he totaled 79, 112, 105 and 130 assists to go along with two MVP awards in four seasons with Calgary.
But this season feels different for Evans and for Buffalo. The Bandits lead the league in scoring by 15 goals over the second-highest scoring team (Georgia) and possess two of the three leading scorers in Thomas Hoggarth (18 goals) and Corey Small (17). On top of Evans’ 12 goals, 2016 MVP Dhane Smith (nine), Chase Fraser (nine) and Josh Byrne (eight) round out the Bandits’ offensive weapons.
“Offensively, Shawny is gonna get his points,” said Tavares. “If he has guys around him that are producing, he’s going to get points. Sometimes points come a lot easier than other nights and right now things seem to be going his way. He can create, and his teammates can also bury the ball for him.”
“Any player that gets points is because they are surrounded by great players. So, while I think Shawny is playing great, it’s also a testament to his players around him.”
The offense isn’t the only bright spot for the 2019 Bandits. Between the pipes, six-time Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc is second in the league in goals allowed per game.
This could be the year Evans hoists the NLL Cup for the first time since winning it all with Rochester in 2007.
The goal is to win the NLL Cup. The single-season assist record would be nice, too.
“I do and I don’t (look at the all-time records), Evans said. “The most important thing to me is my teammates and the success of my team. Winning championships, the memories and friendships you make for life are the most important things I play for.”
“It’s all about playing well and doing things on the floor and good things are going to happen. I’m very fortunate to play this long and I have high hopes to get better each year and produce.”
Evans and Buffalo host Colorado this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. EST. You can follow Evans on twitter and instagram and can catch every game on B/R Live as he looks to break the single-season assist mark.