When you think of the 2014-15 Boston University hockey team, the one player that always comes to mind is Jack Eichel, and rightfully so.
Eichel is one of the best American prospects to be drafted in quite some time, and is expected to be a major piece of the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres puzzle for years to come. However, you’d be fooling yourself if you didn’t give another former Terrier credit for what Boston was able to do last season.
Evan Rodrigues is known as the “guy that played with Eichel” last season. A gritty young forward from Toronto, Rodrigues went through an up and down tenure in Boston before signing with the Sabres in the offseason as an undrafted free agent.
And while he may have been considered just another body by some after his signing, the 22-year old is carving his own place with the team that is giving him a chance to live out his dream.
“It’s kind of proving people wrong that didn’t believe in me four years ago,” he said about getting the opportunity to come in undrafted. “Buffalo was really interested in me, and I saw this as a great opportunity for myself. I’m just going to take this one day at a time and show them what I can do.”
Being a young player, Rodrigues attended Buffalo’s prospect development camp in July as well as the team’s Prospect Challenge during the summer to prepare for his first training camp. And when it comes to the success he had during both events, he wasn’t too surprised with what he accomplished.
“I think I knew I could do it all along,” he said. “Just being able to come here, and show people that I can play at this level too.
“I think I can play at this level, and that’s what I’m here to prove.”
And if you think that his confidence may border on arrogance, those who’ve watched him play, like Eichel, know just how good of a player he is.
“I think fans are starting to get to know him,” Eichel said. “You watch him play for a few shifts and he automatically stands out from how smart he is, how well he sees the ice and how skilled he is. He makes plays that not a lot of players can make.”
Rodrigues will have the biggest opportunity to show what he can offer when the Sabres open up training camp later this week at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Before camp opens up, though, he’s already thinking about where he needs to improve over the next few weeks.
“All around,” he said. “You always have to get that much better. You have to work every single day because if you ever get complacent that’s when your career going to start to go downhill.”
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.