By Ryan Harr
At the completion of his inaugural season in the American Hockey League, Rochester Americans forward Evan Rodrigues ranked second in scoring among the first-year skaters with the Amerks (Jason Bailey-45 points). After finishing with 30 points (9+21), Rodrigues has his eyes set on continuing where he left off the 2015-16 campaign.
“In the second half of the year I started to feel comfortable with the ins and outs of being a professional hockey player and that was evident on the scoresheet. So with that, my confidence grew and I am excited get started again this year to follow last seasons’ success,” said Rodrigues.
Not only did Rodrigues’ play in the latter half of the 2015-16 season help with his confidence, but he was rewarded at the end of year as he was recalled to the Buffalo Sabres, scoring his first NHL goal and picking up first assist over a brief two-game stint with the big club.
“It was definitely exciting to get called up and then scoring the first career goal was something everyone hockey player growing up dreams of. Despite being only in two games in Buffalo, it is something I used in the summer as an additional motivational factor.”
Having had the opportunity to be around Rodrigues all summer, Amerks head coach Dan Lambert noticed there is even more that the young 23-year-old can bring to his game.
“One of the first things that I noticed about Evan, is he is a puck hound. He is usually always around the puck and he plays with a lot of energy when his is near the disc,” said Lambert. “That is his biggest strength, and I think if he can bring that here to the Amerks on a nightly basis, it will only help our team.”
Like any player in the AHL, Rodrigues goal is to return to the big club at some point this season, but he used the offseason to work on things where he can improve before returning to the Sabres.
“During the summer months, I worked on improving my speed and as well as my shooting. Last season, my first in the AHL, I noticed how much faster the game and players are compared to my time with Boston University,” Rodrigues said. “In addition, guys can shoot with much more accuracy and velocity here in this league and those are just the few things it takes to get to the next level.”
As the days are closing in on the regular season to kick-off, the Etobicoke, Ontario, native is not focused on what he did last season with either club, but rather looking forward to what he can accomplish this season.
“I am not the type of player who has objective goals like a certain number of goals or points,” explained Rodrigues. “But I am looking to come in each day, work as hard as I possibly can and learn as much as I can. I will then earn my way up to the next step, which hopefully is in the Buffalo lineup.”