Saturday, April 27, 2019

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Evan Rodrigues

Forward--Evan Rodrigues DOB: July 28, 1993 (Age, 25)
Draft: Undrafted
How acquired: Signed by Buffalo April 22, 2015
Last contract signed: July 27, 2017, 2yr./$1.3 million
Final year of contract: 2018-19 (arbitration-eligible RFA)

2018-19 Stats:  74 games | 9 goals | 20 assists |  29 points | -7 |  15:49 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats:  154 games | 21 goals | 41 assists | 62 points | -22 | 14:37 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  Rodrigues is entering his fourth pro season after leaving Boston University and signing with the Sabres as a free agent. The versatile forward has worked his way up the pro ranks and has showed definitive year-over-year progress in both Rochester and Buffalo.

Last season was yet another step forward for Rodrigues. After suffering an injury in camp which derailed his NHL plans, Rodrigues hit Rochester for an eight-game stint and scored 10 points (5+5.) He was with Buffalo for 48 games scoring seven goals and adding 18 assists.

Sabres coach Phil Housley has a player in Rodrigues that he can play up and down the lineup at either left wing or center and will be consistent game-in, game-out. The demotion of Asplund means that Rodrigues might find himself in a two-way winger role on the third-line. Although he's played better at center, right now Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt and veteran Patrik Berglund look to be locks there which means Rodrigues could start out on the wing. And we're pretty sure he doesn't care as long as he plays.

What we wrote mid-season:  Although he hasn't had a great season, Rodrigues' 10 points (2+8) is still ahead of first round picks Thompson (2016, 26th) and Girgensons in scoring and although it might not be saying much, it is what it is. The versatile, undrafted college free agent (2015) has been moved around in the bottom-nine by Housley as he tries to find a working combination and some chemistry for the second and third lines. For as much 5v5 trouble as he, and the team, has had, Rodrigues has been a constant on Buffalo's penalty kill and he's also been used on the second powerplay unit. In a year of struggles for any forward outside the top trio, Rodrigues needs to find consistency to his game no matter what line he's on.

Impressions on his play this year:  Rodrigues has been Buffalo's Swiss-army knife, or a Jack of all trades, or  utility forward up front, but whatever way you cut it he's played his role admirably under two coaches. In his first full season with the Sabres, Rodrigues has nearly doubled the number of  career games played while nearly doubling his career production as well and he continued an upward trend in average time on ice.  

Rodrigues doesn't have a particular trait that stands out but he does a lot of things well and at a $650K cap-hit the last two seasons, he represents a real value for the club. He can skate well and dart around the ice, he has the capacity to score and set up and he has a strong enough hockey IQ to play in in all situations and not look out of place. Continued development is the key for the 25 yr. old who's on a development curve that's fairly long and still evolving but there will always be injuries and Rodrigues proved last season that he can hold down a bottom-six role on a good team and can be moved in and out of the top-six as a decent stop-gap. 

Questions moving forward:  Can he excel in a third-line role and continue to be an all-situations player? If the Sabres upgrade their forward ranks (which includes re-signing Jeff Skinner,) will his powerplay time evaporate? If the Sabres land a top-nine center, is Rodrigues better suited to a fourth-line center role or a third-line winger role? Can he up his production to the 15g/25a area next season? What type of contract is in his future? Would a 3 yr./$3 million deal be too far-fetched? 

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

a Swiss-army knife up-front, or if you wish, a Jack of all trades

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