Last week I wrote a short post demonstrating some of the promising signs that Casey Nelson has been showing and it got some love across Twitter, so I figure, why not go back to the well for that sweet sweet online clout?
A player that has stood out to me in recent weeks is Evan Rodrigues, so I went back and watched every shift from their game in Detroit on February 22nd and recorded some of the plays that are encouraging to me for a player I hope sticks around on their bottom for awhile.
A common theme in Evan's game is being able to make smart defensive reads. Here he closes in on the puck carrier to form a trap with Gorges, and as soon as the puck carrier curls away Rodrigues switches to Larkin and sticks with him to deter Detroit form moving the puck to him.
Here he reads the play well by covering the passing lane to Larkin and then pouncing on the puck as soon as Detroit mishandles it, leading to a Buffalo zone entry.
This is another read play where he anticipates Detroit's next move without being detected. Steals the puck and creates a scoring chance and draws a penalty.
Rodrigues closes in on the puck carrier while preventing a breakout pass, then in the neutral zone he gets right on top of him and forces what normally should be a bad pass leading to a turnover that his teammates completely missed. That backhand pass should not have made it across the ice cleanly like that.
This is a good example of him being quick to the puck and winning battles to retain possession. He flips the puck into an area where only he and O'Reilly can retrieve it allowing the Sabres to quickly get back into their power-play formation.
On this play he fills a passing lane on the breakout, and once Detroit makes a pass he attacks the new puck carrier and forces what should've been a quick turnover if Girgensons could handle the puck.
Again Rodrigues demonstrates his ability to make quick switches by sticking with the puck as it changes players. He starts with the puck carrier on the entry and as soon as the pass is made he makes a great pivot to not only cover the new puck carrier, but get his stick in the shooting lane to prevent a shot in the high slot.
Evan's game seems to focus on making smart reads all over the ice and sticking to the puck wherever it goes. An admirable trait for a centerman. To put it in hockey parlance, he has a nose for the puck and manages to constantly be in the vicinity of the puck, ready to pounce on a mistake or prevent easy shots and passes.
Much like Casey Nelson, Evan Rodrigues is showing signs that he may be a solid NHLer going forward and is trending toward being a dependable bottom six forward on the team as they attempt to improve. The most important players on a team are your core 4 or 5 guys, but that core won't go very far without solid pieces fitting in around them and I think Rodrigues continues to show that he can be an excellent contributor for the Sabres.