Arizona State coach Greg Powers described his goaltender Evan DeBrouwer as someone who is very composed and even-keeled.
Patient is probably another very fitting term for the sophomore netminder who is leading the Sun Devils this season.
You see, when DeBrouwer arrived on campus a year ago, he wasn’t sure when he’d ever get to see his first career start. He was playing behind Joey Daccord, an All-American a season ago who led Arizona State to the NCAA tournament as an independent.
When Daccord signed with the Ottawa Senators last March, DeBrouwer probably believed his day had come. But to make sure there was some depth, Powers and his staff also brought in Max Prawdzik, a graduate transfer from Boston University.
Would DeBrouwer take a backseat again? The answer was no.
Since the season began, DeBrouwer has started all but one game, putting together a 9-6-2 record thus far and helping the 16th-ranked Sun Devils climb to 11th in the current PairWise Rankings entering a weekend series against No. 17 Harvard in Irvine, Calif.
“Evan’s been a rock back there for us,” said Powers. “He’s really only had one off weekend and it was last weekend in Omaha. But he was really good for us against Denver and Michigan State.
“He’s had a good year so far and he’s only scratching the surface. He’s not surprising any of us thus far.”
If there are any surprises to date, it might just be the fact that DeBrouwer, a native of Blenheim, Ontario, was willing to move three-quarters of the way across the continent to Tempe in order to get this opportunity.
“It was tough [to recruit him],” said Powers. “We wanted to get some goaltending depth behind Joey [Daccord]. We always knew how good Joey was, we knew he would take off, so we knew we were going to have to build for our future without him.
“We talked to a lot of goaltenders who are with other programs now who didn’t want to come in case Joey didn’t sign [an NHL contract and leave early]. In the recruiting process, Evan was a kid who I was drawn to when I saw him on film playing for Prince George. He also won the BCHL title.”
Powers said not only was DeBrouwer realistic that he would likely be sitting on the bench for at least a season, he relished the opportunity to learn from Daccord and the coaching staff and improve his game.
“He made the most of it in every way,” Powers said. “He spent an exorbitant amount of time with Joey on and off the ice. He just absorbed everything.
“You can see it. It’s definitely paid off. He’s hit the ground running.”
Powers says that what makes DeBrouwer strong is his presence in the net. He refers to it as box control, the ability take up as much of the net as possible which is made even more difficult by the sophomore’s 6-foot-3 frame.
While netminding was a very strong suit for Arizona State a year ago and continues to be this season, another strength of the team is its defensive zone coverage.
Powers says his team prides itself in limiting not shot totals, but quality scoring chances. That allows the goaltenders to worry about making the saves they should make and rely on the defense to keep the front of the net clean.
“Our goalies love the defensive zone coverage that we play,” said Powers, who acknowledged that his club made a switch to their current defensive zone coverage in recent years. “For Evan, this is the only D-zone coverage he’s ever known. He’s comfortable with it. We pride ourselves about not giving up a lot of odd-man rushes. We don’t step up in the neutral zone, we don’t just give teams anything. You have to make them earn it.”
While DeBrouwer’s start has been strong, Powers still would like to see him take steps forward. He follows Daccord who was an elite puck-handler (Powers referred to him as a third defenseman). That isn’t part of DeBrouwer’s game right now but is something that Powers says the sophomore is constantly working on.
“He’s more conservative,” said Powers of DeBrouwer’s nature in net. “But he’d like to improve [at handling the puck]. He saw how much of a difference that made [last year].”
Sure, when DeBrouwer committed to come to Tempe, he may not have understood exactly what his future might be. Thus far, though, he’s proven that the future is bright. And taking the stage in sunny California this weekend, it seems that future can only get brighter.