The big contract signing of the Colorado Avalanche’s offseason was inking Nathan MacKinnon to a long-term extension. But one of the contracts that flew below the radar was the team signing Evan Rodrigues as a depth forward.
With captain Gabriel Landeskog missing extended time thanks to multiple surgeries – and with no timetable for his return – Rodrigues has filled in consistently and admirably. He’s played an intermittent role on Colorado’s top line and with the top power-play unit. He’s put together a pretty steady season that’s within striking distance of the career year he had a year ago.
Rodrigues Came to Avs on a High Note
The Avalanche signed Rodrigues to a one-year deal after spending the previous two-plus seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. His 2021-22 campaign was the best of his career – and it wasn’t even close. He played in all 82 games last season, notching career highs in goals (19), assists (24) and points (43). It was the first time he hit double-digit goals in a season, and was a career-best in points by 14.
He also set a career mark with 15:50 of average ice time in 2021-22, but he’s blowing that number out of the water this season. For the Avalanche, he’s averaging 18:07 of ice time per contest and is on the brink of matching the scoring heights he reached last season. Rodrigues is just six goals and six assists away from matching his totals from a season ago, despite missing 11 games this season.
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Before his big year in 2021-22, Rodrigues had never eclipsed 30 points in a season. He’s now done it in back-to-back campaigns, and this season also marks just the second time he tallied double-digit goals. The Avalanche didn’t have to spend too much to pull Rodrigues aboard, but it turned out to be one of the better deals they signed – particularly in the face of all the injuries.
Rodrigues Has Helped Power Through Injuries
Injuries have taken quite a toll on the Avalanche roster this season, with big names like MacKinnon, Makar, Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin all missing extended periods of time. That’s left coach Jared Bednar shaking up the lineup far more often than he did last season when the Avalanche made their run to the franchise’s third Stanley Cup. But Rodrigues has been a stabilizing force during all those missed games.
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Rodrigues’ contributions have come all over the ice. He’s been a steady part of the power play and has helped with the penalty kill. He’s been Colorado’s best shootout performer (cashing in half of his attempts), and all of that has led to averaging the most ice time of his career. He might not find his way onto the scoresheet every night, but he’s third on the team in shot attempts behind MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.
Most importantly, Rodrigues has been versatile enough to play with anybody. He’s bounced all over the lineup – from time on the top line with MacKinnon and Rantanen to bottom-six assignments with Alex Newhook and Martin Kaut. In all, Rodrigues has skated with nine different linemates this season, but his contributions have remained pretty consistent. He has a point in four of his last six games and had a nine-game point streak earlier this season.
Avalanche Need Depth Down the Stretch
The Avalanche are going to need Rodrigues to continue his steady play down the stretch, as the timetable for Landeskog’s return remains confusing, and now Artturi Lehkonen may also miss some time with a broken finger. Colorado still has its superstars at the top of the lineup in MacKinnon and Rantanen, but that depth that helped them to last year’s playoff run is diminished.
With just 17 games to go in the season, Colorado sits in third place in the Central Division, but that position is pretty precarious. The Avalanche are just one point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets and are tied with the Edmonton Oilers in points; the Oilers currently sit in the top wild-card spot. That leaves little room for error for the Avalanche down the stretch, but Colorado has played fewer games than all but one Western Conference team.
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This is a tighter situation than the Avalanche have been accustomed to the past few seasons, but last year’s playoff experience should help them. Colorado might not be able to rely on some of the players from a year ago, and there might even be more injuries down the line. However, getting solid contributions from players like Rodrigues is what’s going to set them apart if they want a chance to replicate last season’s success.