Player: Evan Rodrigues
Born: July 28, 1993 (27 years old)
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 184 pounds
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2020-21 Statistics: 35 games played —7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points
Contract Status: Rodrigues signed a one year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins last offseason and is set to become an unrestricted free agent unless he and the team come to terms on a new deal beforehand.
History — Rodrigues only played seven games with the Penguins in 2019-20 after being acquired in a trade and was left out of our season in review series last year.
In the Penguins first round series against the New York Islanders, Rodrigues appeared in Games 1 and 2, recording a single assist. He was removed from the lineup from Game 3 onward after Evgeni Malkin returned to game action.
Story of the Season
After being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a part of the Kasperi Kapanen deal, Rodrigues resigned with the Penguins as a free agent in the offseason. His original stint with the Penguins began when he was acquired along with Conor Sheary from the Buffalo Sabres in 2019-20 but the COVID shutdown limited his impact to just seven games.
Getting to see Rodrigues for a full season gave fans a better idea of what to expect, and overall, the results were pleasing for a bottom-six player. Like many of his teammates, Rodrigues missed a large chunk of games due to injury, but when he was healthy, he found ways to contribute and was a valuable asset to have while the Penguins battled other injuries throughout the season.
None of his stats will stick out in any particular way, but having a player like Rodrigues on the team, who can play up and down the lineup when needed and has acquitted himself at the NHL level, is a nice fall back option when the injuries inevitably strike.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 16 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 50.4% (9th)
Goals For%: 45.5% (14th)
xGF%: 50.1% (8th)
Scoring Chance %: 49.8% (9th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 49.7% (7th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 7.3% (15th)
On-ice save%: 91.0% (13th)
Goals/60: 0.7 (11th)
Assist/60: 0.99 (10th)
Points/60: 1.7 (10th)
—Rodrigues isn’t a guy who is going to impress in many of the advanced stats categories, but he also isn’t a liability when he’s on the ice. In most categories, he falls right in the middle among Penguins forwards which is what you hope for in a primarily bottom-six role. His offensive numbers rank near the bottom of the list but Rodrigues was never relied upon to be an offensive force when he was on the ice.
—As we’ll see in the chart below, Rodrigues never had consistent linemates for any significant stretch during the season. When you’re the type of player who is asked to play up and down the lineup that doesn’t come as a surprise, but one wonders if the lack of any consistent chemistry with other forwards perhaps drags his numbers down a bit in the long run.
Rodrigues’ three year WAR numbers many not look good, but upon closer inspection, his 2020-21 WAR rebounded greatly from last season and was right near the best WAR performance of his career. His offense and defense are middling, but for his role and his price, it’s not debilitating to have in the lineup.
Once again with Rodrigues, nothing exemplary but nothing awful either. He does a lot of good things on the ice without being exceptional in one area over another. For what he costs against the cap he comes at a bargain based on his WAR value which is good news for the Penguins who are regularly pushing against the salary cap.
It may be repetitive at this point, but again we are seeing just solid play from Rodrigues without anything spectacular at both ends of the ice. It’s nice to see a lot of blue in the danger areas in the defensive zone with a little red thrown in around the high danger areas on the offensive zone.
Mike Sullivan started Rodrigues on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel and put him in a position to prove is he could provide an offensive spark alongside the Penguins big guns. That experiment came to an abrupt end when Rodrigues went down injured at the end of January and he was deployed in a much more defensive role when he returned to the lineup in March.
Rodrigues is not afraid to fire the puck towards the goal which is always nice to see, but one thing that sticks out as compared to other forwards on the roster is his willingness to shoot from distance. These shots may not be the most high danger in nature, but having a guy who is willing to throw the puck towards net to see what happens is never a bad thing.
Evan Rodrigues earns some style points for this feed. pic.twitter.com/8k24NC9IIU— NHL (@NHL) April 21, 2021
Two points for Evan Rodrigues tonight... and SIX GOALS for the Pittsburgh Penguins. pic.twitter.com/DDDDULIBo2— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 21, 2021
That's the Evan Rodrigues knuckle puck. It drives goalies crazy. pic.twitter.com/nkGiGMECMo— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 16, 2021
After signing with the Penguins last offseason, there were many questions surrounding what Rodrigues role was going to be for the upcoming season. In training camp it became obvious that Mike Sullivan was going to try him on the top line with Crosby and Guentzel, but his lack of offense combined with an injury ended that plan after only a few games.
Once back in the lineup, Rodrigues was placed in a more defensive bottom-sox role and he carved out a more permanent place in the lineup once he found his niche doing just what he was asked from the coaching staff. His ability to move up and down the lineup when needed and not drag his linemates down with his play was a major bonus for a Penguins team that was shuffling lines all season long because of injuries.
Should Rodrigues return to the Penguins for the 2021-22 season, it seems likely he will do so in a similar role as we saw him in last season. It’s clear he’s not going to be an offensive force so it’s not likely we will see him taking many shifts alongside Crosby and Guentzel, but rather eating up bottom six minutes doing exactly what we saw from him last season.
Question to ponder
Will he be back with the Penguins next season? At this point, we really don’t know what new general manager Ron Hextall has planned for this offseason, and until we do, it’s hard to project too much about Rodrigues when not knowing if he’ll even be on the team when the puck drops in October. If there is mutual interest and the price is right, it’s not hard to imagine Rodrigues back in black and gold for at least another season.
How would you grade Evan Rodrigues’ 2020-21 season?
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