|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)
When the Buffalo Sabres trimmed their Training Camp roster by 12 on Sunday, Evan Rodrigues
was not among the players to be sent down to Rochester. The fact that he’s still in Buffalo says a lot about the job being done by the undrafted forward out of Boston University.
It also says, according to Bylsma, that he’s earned another preseason game.
“This camp and rookie camp he’s gotten to the inside, he’s competed. You can see there’s some jam and some jump in this guy’s game,” the coach said Monday. “He’s really shown really quite well in the days that he’s been here and he will get a chance to play in another game.”
At the outset of the Prospects Challenge, it was easy to dismiss Rodrigues as “the other BU guy.” He was, after all, undrafted and coming into camp having played college hockey alongside Jack Eichel, the Sabres’ top 2015 draft pick. Rodrigues posted 61 points (21+40) in 41 games in his senior season.
While Eichel picked up the Hobey Baker as the nation’s top player and has dazzled so far this preseason, Rodrigues, 22, has shown to be quite the skilled player in his own right.
“I’ve come to the rink every day and just tried to work my hardest and tried to show them the ability to be here and I think I’ve done that so far,” Rodrigues said. “To make it this far is obviously an accomplishment, but I just have to keep going.”
There are adjustments to be made anytime a player jumps a level. But so far, Rodrigues has taken them in stride. Playing in scrimmages in the first few days of camp with and against the Sabres’ top veterans helped prepare him for his preseason debut, which came against Ottawa at First Niagara Center.
That game was another testament to Bylsma’s belief in Rodrigues. Against the Senators, the young forward played alongside Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Ennis and Carlo Colaiacovo on the Sabres’ top power-play unit.
“I was playing with extremely skilled guys and that’s something I think I have in my game. I’m a skilled player; I have some tenacity, I have some smarts, obviously getting that chance was huge,” Rodrigues said. “Again, it just keeps building my confidence and kind of lets myself know that I can do this.”
His mission since going undrafted has been proving that to everyone else.
“I’ve said it before, but it’s kind of just proving people wrong. I’ve always believed in myself and I think getting the chance to show that is rewarding for me,” he said. “But I’ve still got a long ways to go.”
The Sabres take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in their fifth of seven preseason games Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center.