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Rodrigues proving his worth

Young forward gets bumped up to top line once again

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As the Buffalo Sabres head into the final weeks of the regular season and examine their future as a franchise, they will look to understand what key players are going to be part of that long-term strategy.

One player that is increasingly showing value and fit on the long term roster is Evan Rodrigues.

The 25-year-old forward from Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada has seen up-and-down success across his career. His time in juniors with the Georgetown Raiders saw him reach the 20-goal milestone in both seasons and gain some playoff experience. He then moved to the NCAA playing for Boston University where he didn’t reach that 20-goal mark again until his senior year.

During that year, he played with Buffalo Captain Jack Eichel and racked up 21 goals and 61 points on their way to a disappointing loss in the National Championship game. Despite the loss, it was a key season for Rodrigues, as he snagged the number two spot in the nation for scoring (Eichel was first) and made Hockey East Player of the Month honors twice.

Rodrigues found his way into Buffalo’s prospect pool following that season through undrafted free agency and quickly made an impression with the Rochester Americans until he suffered a broken hand in his third preseason game. Rodrigues showed a lot of promise and likely would have seen a starting spot on the Sabres roster had it not been for this setback.

“He’s a dynamic player. He can penalty kill, he can go on the power play, he plays wing, he plays center, so he’s a huge asset for our hockey team.” -Chris Taylor, Amerks Head Coach

As a dynamic asset, Rodrigues continued to show value in Rochester with nine goals and 30 points in his first season. He even earned some ice time for the Sabres late in the season, tallying his first NHL goal and assist in just his second game. Rodrigues then split time between the Amerks and the Sabres for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons, filling in gaps as Buffalo struggled to find their winning roster.

This season, Rodrigues has shown promise but has been inconsistent in his production. A key piece of the power play and a solid second or third-line player, Rodrigues only managed 13 points in his first 39 games of the season. Lately, he has found a stride, though:

“(I will) just continue to do what I’m doing this year. The chances are coming. It’s nice to finally have them go in for me and start to get rewarded.” -Evan Rodriges

Rodrigues continues to put in hard work night after night for Buffalo, finding goals off rebounds and quick passes, and producing shots at a steady rate. His quick backcheck and hard-nosed forecheck often causes turnovers and odd-man rushes in favor of Buffalo. His overall versatility at center and wing means he fits in many places on the roster as well.

As Buffalo’s playoff chances dwindle and the organization looks to the future, it is easy to see Rodrigues as a part of the long-term future of the team. Rodrigues is in his contract year as an RFA, so look to see Buffalo make Rodrigues an offer this offseason.

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NHL Standings

TEAMGPRECPTS
Atlantic Division Leaders:
P7558-13-4120
7445-20-999
7444-25-593
Metropolitan Division Leaders:
7443-23-894
7442-25-791
7540-24-1191
Wild Card leaders:
7340-26-787
7439-28-785
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7440-30-484
7436-30-880
7433-29-1278
7331-33-971
7328-32-1369
7527-39-963
7426-38-1062
7425-43-656
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Central Division Leaders:
7444-26-492
7542-27-690
7439-27-886
Pacific Division Leaders:
X7446-21-799
X7443-23-894
7442-27-589
Wild Card leaders:
7438-30-682
7433-29-1278
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7436-32-678
7434-31-977
7332-31-1074
7432-32-1074
7433-34-773
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7326-39-860