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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:
5028-10-1268
4829-15-462
4726-16-557
Metropolitan Division Leaders:
4933-11-571
4931-13-567
4828-15-561
Wild Card leaders:
5026-16-860
4928-18-359
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4926-17-658
4925-17-757
4922-20-751
5022-21-751
4723-20-450
4817-23-842
4817-24-741
4912-33-428
TEAMGPRECPTS
Central Division Leaders:
4930-11-868
4827-15-660
4827-17-458
Pacific Division Leaders:
4927-18-458
4926-18-557
5026-19-557
Wild Card leaders:
5125-19-757
5126-20-557
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4925-20-454
5024-20-654
4722-18-751
4822-20-650
5021-25-446
4819-24-543
5018-27-541