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.
— NHL (@NHL) February 25, 2018
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.